Are you sometimes still surprised to learn something new about your mom or dad? With the daily stresses and details of caregiving it can be hard to remember that your loved one has an entire history that you know little about – only what you’ve seen in photographs or heard from stories. Dedicate some time to learn that story a little deeper so that you can preserve and share it with the next generation. Here are some suggestions to help you:
- Organize Photos
Organize photos with your aging loved one. Most people have a box (or many) of loose photos. If your loved one doesn’t own them any more, perhaps they’ve been passed on to another relative who can share them with you. Sitting down for a few hours in front of photos is a great way to organize them into an album or scrapbook for better preservation. It also provides a launching pad for your loved one to share the stories behind the images. There is likely a treasure trove of memories within those dusty slides and prints. If it seems impossible to organize photos, consider taking pictures of the pictures so that you have them digitally. The you can have a photo book created and printed. Companies like Shutterfly, Chatbooks, and Smilebooks make it pretty easy. This type of book can last a long time and would make a great gift too.
- Make a Video Biography
Sometimes elementary school students get an assignment to interview grandma or grandpa, and the students and even their parents are surprised by what they learn. Why not give yourself a similar assignment, with video? Not only is it an opportunity to learn more about your loved one’s story, but it captures the voice, smile, and personality of them that you will watch and treasure in the future. This really can be as simple as recording with your smartphone after a family dinner (maybe even with extended family) where everyone asks a question for your aging loved one to answer. Having video footage not only preserves the story, but also shows the human behind the story, which future generations can relate too.
- Make a Family Cookbook
While your loved one may cook less than he or she once did, there are likely recipes that were staples in their diet. Family foods are such a tradition, and you don’t want to be wondering next Christmas what the secret ingredient is to dad’s cinnamon rolls. Make a family cookbook with your loved one and document not only the recipes, but also the story behind each dish. When was the first time it was eaten in your family? Where did mom learn this recipe? Maybe there’s a funny recipe “fail” story when it didn’t work out. Take it a step further and make some of the dishes for or with your loved one and photograph them for your cookbook.
- Record your Family Tree
Tracing your family’s history can be more fun than it sounds. Sometimes there are fascinating stories behind the names on documents. Technology has made it easier than ever to find and collect family history with websites like Ancestry.com and Archives.com. A savvy web user can probably research family data for free from public, historical records. Your loved one can add to the research by remembering maiden names and extended relatives and add to the story with the details that aren’t documented – the why.
The point here is to nourish not only your loved one’s health, but the relationship you share with him or her. Take time each week to work on some of these activities together, without getting bogged down on the details where it becomes a task. The goal is to strengthen your connection and learn the story of your loved one. We don’t want to get so stressed from the tasks of caregiving that we forget what a treasure we have in our aging loved ones. Get to know them better in a different way, gain insight on their perspective of the world. You could be preserving an incredible story for the generations that come after you, all while enhancing your relationship with your loved one and gaining a bit of wisdom yourself.