Story and Why
and Personal History
Getting the Personal History
Stories from those with Alzheimer’s
An article by Tom Gilbert - ©
memories is sad. As we age it is not uncommon for people to become
forgetful. You can probably chalk this up to the normal aging process.
However, for many people the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s
becomes a serious and even frightening occurrence. Those affected
struggle with various issues, chief among them the inability to
remember certain people, places and things.
The preservation of a life story can be an important part of
anyone’s legacy. We all have a story to tell, regardless of
accomplishments or fame. The story we tell is our personal experiences
in life and how those experiences have helped to shape our beliefs and
values. Every life is sacred and every journey worth remembering and
Doing life review and preserving your personal history can be
beneficial on many levels, including your health. But many mistakenly
believe that those with dementia or early stage Alzheimer’s
are incapable of contributing to the preservation of their life story.
For those afflicted the process of life reminiscing does become more
challenging. There is, however, help to preserve personal history for
those suffering from early Alzheimer’s and dementia. In fact,
the very process and activity may have beneficial results. But it takes
a special sensitivity and training to gather those memories.
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that is progressive, but it is
normal part of aging. Those afflicted do lose some of their
ability to communicate verbally. However, many of them can still sing
and music and poetry have been shown to be effective tools for
reminiscing. A skilled interviewer will now how to utilize
these tools to help capture a life story.
Disorientation, use of inappropriate language, and recent memory loss
can and do occur in many patients with Alzheimer’s.
Personality changes, rapid mood swings and struggling to complete
familiar actions also take place.
How can one approach gathering the vital information that goes into a
personal history or life story from someone suffering from dementia or
Alzheimer’s? There is a way to capture their story before
Alzheimer’s has taken its toll. Katherine Segura has been working with the senior population for over 20 years,
including extensively with persons and families affected by dementia
and Alzheimer’s. She continues to
instruct personal historians in effective ways to converse with clients
diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. She instructs on a number
of effective interview techniques.
Some of the keys are to speak slowly while facing directly towards the
person with Alzheimer’s. If the person says things that are
contradictory or historically incorrect don’t correct them.
Instead, gently redirect or go with the subject’s suggestion.
If they become upset try distracting them by changing to discussing
something pleasant. One should never attempt to physically interfere.
“Tell me about” is a great phrase to use in
interviews. Stress key words. Show the questions in writing and use
pictures and photographs. Allow the subject to also relate to the time
period they believe they are in. It’s counter-productive to
correct them to the present date if their reality is a different year.
Better to let them talk about their memories and preserve their
valuable personal history.
helpful resources can be gathered from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging.
For more articles on personal history and preserving life stories go here