As Dementia progresses, memory loss seems to occur in “reverse order” (most recent memories are lost first, then older memories are lost until the oldest memories are finally gone). It’s not uncommon for a person to forget what she had for breakfast, but remember in vivid detail about her first day of Kindergarten.
And yet, ordinary details of a loved one’s life 90, 80, or even 70 years ago can be fascinating to current and future generations of family members. Having a book of Mom’s stories to pass down to my grandchildren means a lot to me … and it all started with digital recordings of her telling her stories.
We began recording Mom’s stories when she was in her early 90’s. We learned that my grandparents lived in a “dug-out” with dirt floors and no windows when they were first married. We learned that as children they swam with poisonous snakes in a nearby pond, because they were told that snakes won’t bite when they’re under water.
Fortunately, we completed the recording process with my mom before her memories became so confused that they no longer have any meaning. Her memories are now a fascinating tapestry of tidbits of reality mixed together with other unconnected tidbits that bears no resemblance to reality. The “real” stories of her life have now vanished forever.
The stories of an aging loved one offer great value to future generations of family members by enhancing their “identity” and sense of self-worth through these stories and the sense of “connection” they provide. Even if the family does not currently recognize the value of collecting Grandmother’s stories, her experience of telling her stories can be engaging, energizing, and therapeutic to her.
I’ve met countless families who have tried to record an elder loved one’s memories in writing. So far, not a single one that I’ve met has completed the process … and those memories are fading away every day!
I suggest that you use a small digital recorder, or even a smart phone, to record these stories, one topic at a time. Keep a log of what story is told by “chapter” as much as possible, even though some stories will likely follow a “rabbit trail” or two, therefore covering more than one topic.
Enjoy and appreciate the process, and avoid worrying about the final product. You can always burn a CD, or even have the verbal memories transcribed into a book if that becomes important to your family.
Family Private Care offers expert caregivers to care for seniors with all forms of Dementia, including Alzheimer’s, in the comfort of their own homes. In addition to keeping these loved ones safe, the caregiver can also record their special memories before they disappear forever.
John Butler, BA, MS; Vice-President of Client Services; FamilyPrivateCareLLC.com; (404) 252-9005