One of the most distressing early impacts of Alzheimer’s or related diseases on the sufferer and the family, is the person’s inability to recall recent events. Long-term memory is often astoundingly intact.
Therefore, in an effort to make life more pleasurable for all concerned, it is wise to prepare a record of some information about a loved one’s earlier life. This record can be written, or audio/video taped if not too disconcerting to your care-recipient. It can then be used later on to help the patient and the family have more meaningful communication.
Recent studies, funded in part by the National Caregiving Foundation, show reminiscent videos to be an additional tool used for Alzheimer’s patients by their caregivers. The images are pictures selected by the caregiver with captions that are most meaningful to the patient. The background music can also be selected.
What you are trying to establish is a profile of the person’s life history; so start with questions which will enable him to talk about that
very early period of his life.
(The following guidelines of course will need adaptation if it is a female relative.)
• Were they born here or did they immigrate here?
• If they came as immigrants, how old were they at the time and from which country did they come?
• Was life hard for them in the early days?
• How did your father make a living?
• Were they kind?
• Who was the greatest influence on your life?
• How many brothers and sisters did you have?
• Who was your favorite brother/sister?
• Where did you live?
• Did your father change jobs often?
• Did the family have other relatives close by?
• Did the family go to church?
• Did the family have any pets?
• Did you have your own pet?
• What was he like?
• Was anyone in the immediate family ever seriously ill?
• Did you think of yourselves as poor, struggling, comfortably well off?
• Did your parents worry about money?
• Did your grandparents live with you?
• Who was your first teacher?
• How old were you when you went to school?
• How did you get to school?
• What was the name of your best friend; what was he like?
• Did you like school?
• Did you do well in school?
• Did you have any unfulfilled goals; e.g. becoming a doctor or farmer?
• What is your earliest happy memory at school?
• Did you want to have more education?
• Why didn’t you have that education?
• What games did you play?
• Were you very good at games?
• Which teacher do you remember most fondly?
• Did you work while you were still at school?
• If so, what did you do?
• Did you keep all the money or give some or all to your parents?
• How old were you when you left school?
• What were the important holidays?
• What were some of the family’s traditions?
• Did you go away for holidays?
• Where did you go?
• What are some of your happiest memories?
• What was your first job?
• How did you get to and from work?
• Did you like the job?
• How old were you when you got your first suit of clothes?
How Many Jobs Did You Have?
• What were the jobs?
• Why did you change?
• In which job were you the happiest?
• Did you make any life-long friends in any of your jobs?
• Did any special boss help you?
• Where have you visited?
• Which place did you like the most?
Your Life with Mother
• When did you meet your spouse?
• Do you still remember what she looked like then?
• How old were you when you got married?
• How much money did you have then?
• Did you have to save hard?
• When did you buy your first house?
• How much was your first house?
• Were you proud of it?
• What was your first car like?
• How many children did you want?
• Was she a good cook?
• Were you happy?
Places You have Lived
• How many have there been?
• Which did you like the most?
• Did you go to the war?
• What rank were you?
• Did you have close buddies?
• Do you ever see them or think about them?
• Were you scared?
• What do you feel about wars?
• Who is, was, or still is your best friend?
• Why was or is he your best friend?
• Whom have you known the longest?
• What is your most treasured memory?
• What is your favorite hobby?
• When did you first take it up?
• What was your favorite sport?
• Did you get the chance to play often?
• Did you ever have time to read a lot?
• Who are your favorite authors?
• What are your favorite spectator sports?
• Who is your favorite sports figure?
• What is your favorite movie?
• What is your political affiliation?
• Has it always been the same?
• Who was the “best” president?
• Who was the “worst” president?
• What was your greatest challenge?
• How did you meet it?
Disappointments in Life
• What is your greatest disappointment?
• How did you deal with it?
• What do you feel is your greatest achievement?
• In what have you had the most pride?
• How important was your job to you?
• How important was the family?
• Did that order change over time?
What are the major changes you have seen taking place in your lifetime?
Most Admired Person
• Whom have you admired most?
If You Had Your Life to Live Over Again
• Would you make any changes?
• What would they be?
Once you have the answers to the above questions (and any others you want to add), write up a brief outline of your loved one’s life. Share it with him — so many memories will be shared. And share it with others in his life.
This simple collected outline will help to keep his life happy.