The Importance of Capturing your Parent's Life Story When They Have Dementia


Your parents haven’t had the same exposure to social media as the youth in your midst who have grown up with a different type of connectivity. The life events of younger generations, from the monumental to the mundane, are being memorialized through a wide variety of channels ranging from Facebook to YouTube to Instagram.

Everyone has a story and if your parent has dementia, they likely have many stories. Some you may have heard over and over. Although the repetition may be tiresome now, you don’t want to lose their stories to a condition that causes them to fade into the sunset.

As a caregiver, you may think that you have enough to do and capturing your mom or dad’s tales of adventures is just one more thing that you don’t have time for. It will have to wait until the cooking, laundry, cleaning, shopping and appointments are done. Wait too long though and you run the risk that your loved one will no longer be able to recall their stories or have the language skills to communicate their treasured memories.

Why should you make story telling a priority? There are many benefits to capturing a person’s life history. Of course, you want to inscribe the stories because they are part of the person and how they will be remembered after they are gone. As well, the person with dementia may benefit from more personalized care if caregivers can learn about them, their background, and what makes them tick. Once the stories and information about their likes and dislikes are recorded, caregivers can use the data to reminisce, redirect, and soothe them if they become agitated. Knowing that someone else can provide your loved one with the care that you want for them, allows you to get respite.

How can you capture the stories of your loved one? Here are six ideas:

  1. Turn the video on your phone as soon as your loved one starts to tell you one of their stories.

  2. Ask grandchildren to get involved. Children are naturally curious and love to ask questions. Ask them to interview their grandparent and write a story about what they learn.

  3. When someone asks you if they can do something to help, say yes! Ask them to enjoy a cup of tea with your parent and inquire about their favorite moments in life, their career, family, travels, pets, hobbies, and places they’ve lived. Ask them to take some notes and record the conversation with audio or video.

  4. Look at photos together and record the people’s names, and what was happening at the time the photo was taken. Go a step further and create a scrapbook that can be cherished by the person with dementia and other family members.

  5. Include your parent in the process. Instead of viewing it as one more thing you must do, use the photos and recording of the stories as an activity that you do together.

  6. Search online for digital tools, apps and websites that make creating a digital life story easy.

Collect the stories together into a journal or scrapbook and cherish them for years to come! You’ll be glad you did!

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