Study shows benefits of family photographs for dementia patients

A new study shows that engagement with family photographs improves dementia patients’ quality of life

Old photograph of a mother and little boy sitting on a footbridge by a stream

Engaging with family photographs may be beneficial for treating the symptoms of dementia, new research suggests.

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In a pilot study conducted by the National Institute for Dementia Education in the USA, health care students worked with elderly people with dementia to engage in reminiscence therapy, which involved discussing their past experiences with the aid of photographs.

37 care home residents with dementia, ranging in age from 67 to 92, took part in the programme.

The pilot group was divided into four areas of focus. Group A took part in the Tellegacy reminiscence therapy programme and 1:1 student-to-resident sessions with generic stock photographs of families, landscapes, famous landmarks and pets. Group B took part in the programme and sessions without photographs. Group C had no photographs or programme and Group D took part in the programme and sessions with their personal photographs, again including families, landscapes, landmarks and pets. Aged or faded personal photos were enhanced and restored using Vivid-Pix digital technology.

The study found that residents who’d engaged in reminiscence therapy with personal photographs were more enthusiastic about the sessions and remembered more detailed information about them afterwards. They also showed more social engagement, improved or maintained their score in cognitive screening, and were more likely to comply with their medication regime.

Joshua Freitas, PhD(c), M.Ed., BC-DEd, Chief Research Officer, CERTUS Institute, said: “We concluded that the power of engaging with personal photos, matched with a high-quality care curriculum and living environment, may improve the quality of life for those with dementia by stimulating the brain and fostering neurogenesis as well as neuroplasticity. This may improve quality of life and, in some cases, temporarily diminish dementia symptoms during therapeutic sessions.”

Rick Voight, CEO of Vivid-Pix, said: “This study highlights the emotional, mental, and physical health benefits that looking at photos provide to the young and young-at-heart alike.”

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Rosemary Collins is the features editor of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine