Fighting memory loss through storytelling

Memory loss is practically assumed to be inevitable for those aging. Is it possible to slow this loss and increase morale by connecting the past with the present? Babies can help patients suffering from dementia and memory loss. As we become a multi-generational household, we daily see ways our young children are helping Grandma with fighting memory loss (read more about how this has been mutually beneficial here.

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Storytelling used to be more common

In some cultures, oral history is still a common way of sharing history. Grandparents are given respect. Children seek to hear stories from them of their past and they great-great grandparents. Stories are passed down through the generations. American culture places more emphasis on written history in structured history classes in school. Sadly, many children are too preoccupied with the technology distractions of the day to even care to spend time with grandparents.

Write stories down

Writing down some of the oral stories takes discipline and time. Is it me, or does it feel like we are all getting worse at remembering things as we rely on our phones to record everything? There are many stories I’ve heard in our own family. While I enjoyed hearing them at the time, I failed to write them down thus, I can’t remember them. Unfortunately, some of those story caretakers have passed away now. Their stories if not remembered, go with them.

There are journals designed precisely to become keepsakes, I’ve included some suggestions for our favorites. They have prompts for Grandma, Grandpa, Papa, Nana, etc. with space for them to write their story. The prompts are helpful for them to know what stories to share.

Helping grandparents with memory loss connect to the past by sharing the past with others

This week I had the privilege of gathering the supplies for Grandma to share a long-lived tradition of making Authentic Italian Pizzelles. Grandma is 100% Italian. Her grandchildren are only 1/4 Italian. If you’ve never tried these unique cookies, you should. Grandma says to only try the authentic, homemade ones “because they’re way better than the store bought cookies”. Grandma says the difference is all in the iron. I’ve bought two irons, trying to get the right thickness of cookies before she moved in with her pizzelle iron.

After working for hours to make these delicate cookies the ones I’d made received the, “No, no! These aren’t right, they’re too thick!” reaction from both my husband and mother-in-law. Her authentic ones are paper-thin so, they practically melt in your mouth. Pizzelles are basically the flat, extra thin version of a waffle cone, but a different flavor… at least that’s a non-Italian description! The conclusion was we can only make them with her old Prego brand pizzelle iron. The Cuisinart pizzelle iron also makes good pizzelles.

How doing an activity from the past can spark memories, fighting memory loss

Hope can be restored when elderly realize that they’re wanted

Grandma had given up hope she would ever be able to make these sorts of memories with her grandchildren. She never expected to move in with us or to get time with her grandchildren.

Doing an activity learned as a young person builds confidence and self-esteem for someone with memory loss

While I watched Grandma in her element, it was amazing to see her light up as she got in her element with her pizzelle iron she’s used for probably 35-40 years. Grandma was doing a familiar activity. She was the expert in the situation as she taught a skill she’d learned since she was a young girl. For many aging people, learning new technology is frustrating. Thus, being the teacher of a task they are familiar with helps foster positive self-esteem. As she relaxed she began sharing stories of past memories she has shared with family. The stories they shared while they were doing a joint activity aren’t found in a school history book. Still, the stories are important and if they aren’t shared, one day they’ll be forgotten.

Storytelling: One way of fighting memory loss

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