By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: My father used to love to look at photos of his family and friends, but in his advancing age, he often doesn't recognize who the people are. What should I do? Charles in Arizona, 57

ANSWER: Many of us have a few photos in our home and/or office. It feels nice to have family members close by. But your problem is a very common situation for the elderly. As a person ages, their memory and acuity diminish. Pictures become a big question mark. But there are ways to alleviate the problem.

I write the names of people in the photo on the front with a sticky note. Then I flip the photo over and write the subjects' age and when/where the picture was taken. Was it a wedding, a picnic, in Hong Kong, in Brooklyn? This helps bring the photo to life before the picture loses relevance. It also makes it easier for your father to share with others. He can be proud of his family and friends. It gives him something to talk about, and he'll feel more connected to his family and community.

When you clean out old photo albums, gather any information and history and put everything in a new album. Your father is coming to the end of his life and he still needs to feel connected. Photos with clear histories help stave off isolation. They can also help your elder's short term memory. Consider enlarging photos so your elder can see them. 4X6s and 5X7s are always better than 3X4s. I even like to keep a magnifying glass handy so it's easier to see things.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.