I have written a few articles on listening to elders and keeping their stories alive. I wrote about it for this site in a blog that was posted October 23, 2006. I wrote about it for my Minding Our Elders blog, as well. I still believe listening - actually listening - to our elders tell their stories can be one of the most important things we can do as caregivers. Everyone wants to be heard. Our elders are at a stage where they see aspects of their lives falling out of control on a daily basis. The sense of loss is depressing and can suck the life out of them. Telling stories of their past entertains them, and having a listener who cares helps them remember that their lives have mattered.
We, as caregivers, win as well. Some of my most precious memories of my elders, now gone, are when I took time to listen to them tell of the past. These are moments in my memory that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
The problem is I don’t remember all the details. And, though I pass some of these stories on to my young folks, I know I am missing details, and they aren’t catching it all. These stories will eventually be lost.
Back to the blogs. My writing was about listening. A gentleman commenting on the Minding Our Elders blog suggested setting up a video camera and encouraging an elder to tell stories. If you can get the elder comfortable with this, I think it’s a terrific idea.
Also, there is a company called American StoryKeepers that sells what they call Audio-biography kits. These could be useful. They say they provide archive quality tapes in a case that can be labeled with dates on the spine and a place for a photo on the front. They also provide tips on interviewing an elder to get the ball rolling. More information on this company can be found at www.americanstorykeepers.com.
Obviously, you can provide your own tapes. You would need a recorder. But the guidance this company gives, and the packaging materials, may be worth, to some, the price of $39.95 per kit. They also offer a bundle for $89.95 that includes two kits and one cassette recorder. The site gives you all the information you will need, if you choose to go this route.
Whether you do this on your own, or choose a packaged deal; whether you set up a video camera, or rely on happenstance and your memory, do listen. You will never regret the time spent on this important mission.
Do it before it’s too late for your loved one to remember and communicate stories of their own past - before their minds are muddied by dementia. Having listened to them will help you remember them as whole people - something that can be difficult to do in the depths of caring for someone with dementia.
Published On: February 09, 2007