You may not have heard a lot about Grandparents’ Day, but as holidays go, it’s one of the more important ones. The day was made official by Jimmy Carter in 1978, but its roots go back to an effort made by Marion McQuade from Fayette County, West Virginia to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. We can’t think of anyone who would benefit more from a gift that captures memories, history and lots of love. This year, use Grandparents’ Day to kick off the creation of a beautiful memory book made to bring a smile to the face of your wisest relatives. Even if your grandparents or your children’s grandparents are still happily going about their lives in their own home, chances are there’s not much they cherish more than photos of the people they love most in this world.
As a memorable gift for grandparents of all ages and in all levels of health, we suggest creating one of two types of photo books: one that brings past memories to life using big beautiful images in a large format. Or one that gathers lots and lots of current photographs of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. For this post, I’ll focus on creating books for elderly or ailing grandparents with special needs to think about—after all, that was the original intent of the Grandparents’ Day holiday.
If you’re creating a photo book that chronicles a bit of history, think about how you can illustrate memories he or she no longer has access to. In this case, access could mean either that your grandparent no longer lives in a place where photos are stored or the photos and prints they do have are too small for them to see. Or access could be more about mild, moderate or severe dementia leaving your grandparent incapable of remembering family and friends all the time or just some of the time. In either of these cases, scanning a selection of treasured photographs is a priceless gift. Consider using very high resolution—between 300 and 1200 dpi—when you scan so that you can maximize size. Choose a large format for your photo book so that images can be as large and crisp as possible. Add simple captions with names, dates and places in large text—24 point or larger—that can be easily read. Even if your special elderly friend or family member can no longer read the text him or herself, caregivers and volunteers who pass through the nursing home might take the time to flip through and read the entries aloud while showing the pictures.
If you’re creating a book that captures current photos of every family member, choose an organizational method that makes relationships as clear as possible. Having had a grandparent suffer with dementia for over a decade, I’m only too familiar with the way relationships and delineation between families can blur with the disease. Consider beginning the book with photos of individual families shown together, followed by separate pages that portray each family member in his or her element. For example, you might have a big family portrait on one page with “The Millers: Joanne, Brady, Tom and Josh” printed in large text below. On the subsequent pages, show photos of Joanne doing her thing, labeling the page again with her name. Then a page for Brady, then Tom, etc. Especially with early onset dementia (or Alzheimer’s), one of the most frustrating aspects of the disease is that the sufferer has a pretty clear awareness that his or her memory is deeply compromised. By giving them a book with everything laid out in the most clear way possible, you help them preserve their dignity by eliminating the need for them to ask questions they know they “should” know.
No matter what kind of photo book you create for your elderly friend or family member, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. It’s often awkward to visit someone in a nursing home because conversation can be challenging with frequent interruptions and miscommunication. With a big, beautiful book like this, visitors instantly have something to page through—a common point for connection—even if you simply sit quietly and page through the book together.