Photo Book Designed Specifically for Dementia Patients to Exercise Their Minds

Dementia Art Therapy by Laurence Aëgerter

When flipping through the pages of Photographic Treatment © by Laurence Aëgerter, a reader is greeted with spreads pairing two seemingly unrelated images. It's upon further examination and thinking that they have a connection—but what is it? There's no wrong or right answer to this question, and that's the point of the exercise. Photographic Treatment © is primarily geared towards dementia patients as a cognitive tool that exercises their minds, while at the same time captivates them with alluring image combinations.

Aëgerter spent more than a year and a half consulting with experts in the fields of neurology, gerontology, and psychology to create the series of five slim books. Each contains 30 pairs of uncaptioned images that invite readers to imagine how the two correspond to one another. Some feature portraits of people, while other spreads are of animals or distant locales. In one pairing, a figure skating couple sits opposite a snow-covered mountain. Another positions a wide-eyed owl next to a girl wearing a hijab. The dementia patient is supposed to look at these spreads (and others in Photographic Treatment ©) with a caretaker who prompts them using open-ended questions, allowing the patient to think creatively about what they’re seeing. They will not only enjoy the images but engage in free-associative thoughts and possibly lead them to reminisce about their past.

Aëgerter created Photographic Treatment © as a way, in part, to improve patients’ lives with the power of images. “It is really a trigger for their fantasy because their world becomes so small in this care environment—very protected, without any surprise, and totally dull,” she explains. “People are sometimes treated too much like children. I thought, ‘What about triggering the mind, but in a way that’s less confronting?’ This project really leaves people in their own value, and there is no quiz, and there is no shame to have about not remembering. Just pleasure with images.”

Laurence Aëgerter created a form of dementia therapy for people suffering from its memory loss symptoms called Photographic Treatment ©.

Dementia Art Therapy by Laurence AëgerterDementia Therapy

Pairing unlikely images, she encourages patients to find comparisons between them.

Dementia Therapy Dementia Art Therapy by Laurence AëgerterDementia Art Therapy by Laurence Aëgerter

It fosters creative thinking.

Dementia Therapy Dementia Therapy Dementia Art Therapy by Laurence Aëgerter

Photographic Treatment is now in some facilities where caretakers can go through the book with their patients.

Dementia Art Therapy by Laurence AëgerterDementia Art Therapy by Laurence AëgerterDementia Art Therapy by Laurence AëgerterDementia Art Therapy by Laurence AëgerterDementia Art Therapy by Laurence AëgerterDementia Art Therapy by Laurence AëgerterPhotographic Treatment ©: Website
Laurence Aëgerter: Website

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Laurence Aëgerter.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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