Younger generations spend their lives online. Every thought is tweeted; every moment snapped or Instagrammed; every funny pet mishap memorialized on Facebook. However, older generations are hardly on social media, with less than half of those 65 and older using Facebook and only 11% of those over 50 tweeting, according to a 2015 Pew study. That means that we’re losing those stories every day. Now, more than ever, it’s important to record your aging loved one’s story in order to preserve history, and give them the opportunity to receive better care in the future.
Everyone has a story to tell and not everyone can tell it. There are many direct benefits, finds an Emory University Study, to learning about your family history. Children who have learned about their family ancestors and their past are better adjusted and more resilient in the face of challenges. In addition, those same children often have higher self-esteem and greater self-identity.
Capturing and preserving your family’s story can also bring delight and joy to younger family members. There are opportunities to find happiness in the stories and it could prompt hours of questions and reminiscing. This can stir memories of what’s yet to be done: that trip never taken, an old bet or promise or a never-achieved goal. The stories become a marker: a tally of things done and something to which the things ahead can be added.
Studies show that life story-telling builds bonds between families and helps bridge generations. So why don’t we do it more?
Providing Better Care for a Loved One
The benefits of preserving your family history are real but for many the time and resources can be a challenge. To organize interview questions, schedule an interview, record the session, draft the material, review it, edit and then share it for input is a very time-consuming task – but not for a trained journalist or storyteller!
As a family caregiver, your time is split in many directions so you could use help to complete this invaluable task. Having a trained professional conduct the interview and write the family history will save you time and stress. But the benefits don’t stop there.
If your aging parent requires at-home professional care or a nursing home, than having a well-written, easy-to-understand history can actually lead to better care. Having this history can help your loved one receive individualized care by helping the person caring for them learn their preferences, needs, passions, likes and dislikes. It can help nurses and other caregivers relate to and connect with your loved one, while giving them more tools with which to soothe and redirect them, should they grow agitated.\
Writing a story about someone’s life is an enormous task to be sure; you start out full of details but those quickly fall by the wayside and most projects remain unfinished as you’re daunted by the enormity of the task. This is especially true when tackling a loved one’s story. You know they have great tales and adventures that you want to capture. But where to begin? How do you capture a sense of someone’s soul? How do you show the depth and breadth of their experience? This is where MemoryWell can help.
MemoryWell was cofounded by Jay Newton-Small, who was a caregiver for her father who had Alzheimer’s for 15 years. A couple of years ago, she had to move him to a care home. The community asked her to fill out a 20-page questionnaire about his life. This made no sense to her: how were they ever going to remember 20 pages of hand-written data points for the 150 residents there? As a former correspondent for TIME Magazine, Jay decided to put her professional skills to use and she wrote down his story.
Though the company began writing the stories of those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, they quickly realized that their stories had a much broader appeal. Hundreds of families have contacted them asking for their stories to be told and MemoryWell now has a national network of more than 300 professional journalists telling the life stories of seniors. MemoryWell’s stories capture legacies and build connections.