Memory Kits Serve Community Members with Alzheimer’s

Steph Waite, Communications Coordinator /
Memory Care Kits at the library

Memory Care Kits, photo courtesy Medina County District Library

For people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families, a remembered moment from the past is a gift. Memory loss and confusion are the hallmarks of dementia and Alzheimer’s, as the diseases progressively damage brains cells, but photographs, music, and memorabilia from the past can trigger memories and provide a bridge for caregivers and loved ones to communicate and connect.

A Memory Kit is a box or bag filled with items and activities centered around a place, time, or theme. A decade-themed kit could contain famous photographs from a decade, a CD with music from the era, informational booklets with facts from that time, political buttons, or anything that evokes a sense of the time period. Kits can also be centered around activities such as cooking, outdoor recreation, music and dance, or world travel.

How Can Libraries Use Memory Kits?

Librarians and library staff are uniquely positioned to create memory kits because they have access to historical knowledge, and often memorabilia and media from the past. Some libraries have built a collection of memory kits for their users to check out, while others have developed programming that supports caregiver and family members in building their own kits. Here are some great examples of libraries that are serving their community’s seniors with memory kits.

Photo of Memory Kits on display

Memory Kits, photo courtesy Mercer Public Library on Facebook.

Visiting Senior Centers

Amy Bivins, Library Associate at Pima County Public Library (Tucson, Arizona), takes her library’s memory kit to local assisted living facilities to interact with community members who may not be able to make it to the library. Her kit contains photos of teenagers dancing, and she uses it to spark conversation among the residents about the activities they enjoyed when they were teenagers. Her kit also includes a giant 1950s-themed crossword puzzle that she and the residents complete together. She ends her visit with popular songs of the 50s.

Creating a Collection

The Adult Services team at Carver County Library partnered with the Carver County Public Health Office of Aging to increase resources for community members with Alzheimer’s or dementia-related diseases. The team created a collection of 23 memory kits (including two in Spanish) that contain activities, books, and CDs that can be checked out. They also contain tips on caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, as well as a list of suggested reading, which users can keep when they checkout the kit. A notebook is included so each user can include a note or a memory, which can be read by the next families who check out the kit.  

Build a Memory Kit Program

Another idea to try is to create a program that teaches caregivers or young people how to make a memory kit for their loved one with Alzheimer’s. Participants can customize their kit with items that are uniquely special to the person in their life with memory loss, and you can teach them to use your library’s resources to do background research on the period and cultural context of the kit they’re creating. Check out this PDF from Alzheimer’s Arkansas for a suggested supply list and things to include in a personalized memory kit.

Explore other related resources and examples