Photographic Treatment – Spurring Creativity and Conversations with Alzheimer’s Patients

Though an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia may struggle to remember certain words, names, and events, they are still capable of great creativity and conversation. Too often, caregivers worry about causing anxiety or frustration and try to limit conversations with their loved one or family member. One fascinating project seeks to open the door to wide-ranging and thoughtful conversations and to challenge those with dementia to explore their memories and creativity.

This new therapeutic technique is called “Photographic Treatment,” and it was developed by a French visual artist named Laurence Aëgerter in collaboration with experts in neurology, geriatrics, and psychology.

The treatment is relatively simple. Aëgerter assembled a collection of photographs, which are available for download on the website, Caregivers are directed to place the specially curated photographs in front of their loved one or family member and then to encourage them to discuss the images.

Aëgerter offers different photographic packages on her website, including 65 different sets of themed photographs as well as a special book of photo pairs called Photographic Treatment. The purpose of the therapy is to encourage an individual with dementia to engage with the photographs. This can lead to stories, old memories, conversations, and creative thoughts. It can serve as a great way for caretakers to connect with their patients. It also provides mental stimulation for a person with Alzheimer’s and may help them manage boredom, stress, and depression.

How Does Photographic Treatment Work?

Dementia researchers have long known about a phenomenon called “the reminiscence bump,” where a patient suffering from dementia can still recall memories from childhood and adolescence. Though a woman with Alzheimer’s may not remember the names of her grandchildren, she may be able to recall her childhood dog in great detail.

Photographic Treatment takes advantage of the reminiscence bump. Certain images may help patients recall older memories, which can lead to stories or conversations. Other photographs may spark unique thoughts and questions. The key is to allow the patient to connect with the photographs any way they wish.

Too often, a caretaker may unintentionally set up their loved one for failure by asking specific questions about a past event or family member that the individual can no longer remember. This can cause the person to feel anxious and frustrated as they try and fail to recall the requested information.

With Photographic Treatment, there are no right or wrong answers. Simply reactions. Caretakers can try to encourage conversations by asking questions like,

  • What do you see in this picture?
  • What do you like about this picture?
  • What do you think about this picture?
  • Can you think of a story related to this picture?

According to the Photographic Treatment website, the treatment can be used for individuals in any stage of dementia. Caregivers are advised to apply the treatment for roughly 30 minutes.

Does the Photographic Treatment work? According to an article by CNN, Aëgerter has seen great responses to her book, including patients in later stage of dementia who respond positively to her images.

If you’d like to try this interesting technique, Laurence Aëgerter’s curated photo series is available for free on her website. Simply download and print the pictures. Show them to your loved one and then let the conversation begin.

If you are struggling to find interesting and appropriate activities for your loved one in dementia, consider asking other caretakers for ideas. If you live in Poway or San Diego County, we invite you to our free monthly caretaker support group. Everyone is welcomed!  


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1 reply

  1. Photographic treatment can indeed help Dementia patients remember faint instances of their lives. Our brain records and remembers images faster than any other form of input. This is an extremely interesting article, and should be read by people who are managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients.

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