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I have talked in the past about doing meaningful activities with loved ones who have dementia. After losing my grandmother recently, I have been thinking about the activities we should be doing with our elderly parents or grandparents when they do not have a significant cognitive impairment.
When I was getting my bachelor’s degree, I had a project that required me to do a grandmother paper. I paired up with my grandmother and had to write the story of her life. I needed to know historical events that were happening, as well as her experiences as a young girl, and her life into adulthood. Her story was beautiful and unraveled the most beautiful love story with my grandfather. I am so thankful I have this story written down now, as my children can read it and understand the person she was. I realize everyone’s story is different, but reflecting on this experience got me thinking how important it is for elderly people to get to share their story—and how important it is for family to know their story.
Understanding your heritage does not have to be as involved as writing a story. It can be as simple as just asking questions when visiting. Lives are busy and technology is causing a lot of distractions for people these days. Think about the last time you visited your parent or grandparent. Did you have your phone close by? Were you checking Facebook or reading text messages? I know I am guilty of this. Next time you visit, consider leaving your phone in your car or in your pocket and really engage in your visit with your loved one.
You might be surprised at how much you do not know about your family member. You may be able to reflect on personality traits and even behaviors and understand why that person is the way he or she is. You might be more sensitive and caring in your interactions if there is information about them you did not know. You might be more proud and honored for them to be part of your family. It is worth finding out.
The responsibility does not lay just on the children and grandchildren. If you are an elderly person, consider opening up and introducing new stories and information about your life. Many people find that talking and reminiscing boosts spirits and makes a person feel good. Of course there may be painful memories, but they are memories that may be worth sharing.
If you are thinking about trying this, here are some ideas for topics:
1. Ask the person where they were born, what their parents were like, what do they remember most about their childhood or discuss any difficult times they may have had and how they handled them.
2. Ask them how they met their spouse and how the proposal went.
3. If they were a veteran, ask them what made them decide to fight for their country and how did this shape who they are.
4. Ask them questions about raising children, where they lived and where they worked.
5. Ask them about any funny stories they remember from childhood and into adulthood.
6. If you’re concerned on medical history, don’t be afraid to ask them about diseases or illnesses that happened in their life and in their family.
If you do not have family to give your story to, call us at Western Illinois Home Health Care at 800-
Amanda Powell, BSW, is a Senior Care Manager at Western Illinois Home Health Care
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