Do you remember Roots? Not those things that keep you from pulling up the toughest weeds, but Alex Haley’s blockbuster book and miniseries. It encouraged a flurry of resources for discovering where our families came from and what famous (or infamous) person made us who we are. Currently, the TV series finding your roots gives viewers the opportunity to watch celebrities laugh and cry and go silent when they discover shocking ancestors they never knew they had. Memory-care patients can be a source of family memories about ancestors they may soon forget they have, so now is the time to work on preserving their memories to pass on to the family.
Preserving family memories may take time but can be relatively simple (no pun intended) and fun, and can be a great bonding experience for multiple generations. It will create treasures for generations to come as well, and might keep them from having to dig through dusty archives and microfilm and crispy parchments to discover your story!
Here are some ways to research that library of material that resides in your loved one’s head, even though it might take some effort to retrieve it when dementia is the doorkeeper.
Questions Asking questions is the most direct way to probe for information. A Place for Mom has an excellent PDF list of questions to ask an aging loved one, compiled by Joan Lunden. Keep the questions direct and simple and somewhat open-ended, avoiding the “Do you remember . . . ?” questions. They might feel bad if they don’t remember.
Photos and mementos can trigger precious memories and stories about people and places. Pictures are an obvious choice, but newspaper clippings, souvenirs, greeting cards, certificates, and even old clothes, can transport a person back in time.
Tastes and smells are powerful memory stimulants. A favorite cologne or flower or cookie recipe can elicit that “Ahhhhh!” response and lead one down memory lane.
Music is called the language of the soul, because it carries words beyond the intellect and into the heart. Familiar music has been proven to stabilize patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementia afflictions. Music creates and reinforces moods and we often connect it with experiences, TV and movie scenes, commercials, and social events. Waves of music can trigger a flood of memories.
Reunions Family, school, and hometown reunions are practically living reenactments of one’s past. Old familiar faces and voices (although much older!) inspire memories that may lie long hidden. If travel is possible, visit the old stomping grounds for a tour of days gone by.
Now that you have all that knowledge, what do you do with it?
Photos Label, organize, and archive those old photos, as well as ones you take on a memory tour or special visit.
Scrapbook Those little bits and pieces of newspapers, the dried flowers, hand-drawn pictures, bits of hair and scraps of clothing, ticket stubs, etc., are not scraps — they are treasures. Put them in scrapbooks in an orderly, perhaps chronological, way.
Keepsake box If you can’t squash them into a scrapbook, you can store them in a keepsake box. Make sure items are clean and properly preserved or wrapped to prevent tarnish and corrosion. A shadow box is a good way to display medals, miniatures, or trinkets, for all to see.
Recording via audio or video is the modern way to preserve memories; no parchment and quill needed! Sit down with your loved one and a recorder and begin the interview! Have a camera ready at social events and special visits to document the sights and sounds for all time. Often, when people are mixing and chatting, those memories begin to flow, so be ready.
A written biography or journal is a convenient way to store memories. Recording feelings, as well as facts, makes for a powerful living history in ink.
How about creating a family tree? Talk about roots! It makes a perfect visual reminder of your family’s lineage.
For that “Just like Momma used to make” feeling, collect your loved one’s favorite recipes, those that he or she cooked or created, or those that they remember from childhood.
There are sites galore that can help with all the above and suggest even more ways to grab those precious memories before they are gone!
Having safe, secure and comfortable outdoor spaces is an important element in memory care communities and Bristol House recognizes that. To learn more about our services and to schedule a lunch and tour call 215-491-1501.
Conveniently located on Bristol Road, just off of 611 south of Doylestown, Bristol House Memory Care provides resident-centered care for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Amenities, facilities, scheduling, programming, and specialized staff training is all designed to address the unique needs of those with cognitive impairment. Our community offers private rooms and it is based on the “small house” model to replicate home-like living around a kitchen, dining area, and living room.