Listen to Their Stories While We Still Can

Posted on July 21, 2015 by Anne Ellett

Stories can captivate and hold our attention like nothing else. Sometimes, for those of us working with people affected by dementia, it’s easy to feel like their stories are slipping away, much like when we wake in the morning and can’t remember the details to the dream that gripped us during the night.

I was visiting a Board and Care home in southern Calif. last week and the staff person had everyone arranged in a circle of chairs – it was time for “20 Questions”! “Who can tell me the capitol of the state of Nevada?”, “Does anyone know the year we landed on the moon?” “Who was the president of the United States in the year 2000?” and so she intoned on…The circle of participants was mostly quiet, knowing that if they waited long enough, she would pronounce the correct answer.

Did she know that one of her older participants had worked at NASA during the moon launch? As she passed over him to announce the next question, he began to talk about his work at NASA and watching the launch of the Columbia in July, 1969.

Instead of asking what year the US landed on the moon, what if instead she had said, “I’d love to talk about the moon – what does the moon mean to you? Can you describe the moon? Do you have any stories you can share about the moon?” Without asking a question that has a correct or incorrect answer, perhaps she would have heard Ted’s story about watching the Columbia fly towards the moon in 1969 from his vantage point at NASA. That would be a wonderful story to hear.

StoryCorps is a non-profit organization formed to record and share stories from people all over the United States . This model of oral history goes back to the 1930’s when the WPA recorded stories from across the U.S. during the depression. It offers a unique opportunity to interview and record for yourself, your family and all of posterity the stories of those people affected by dementia.

This is our chance to hear the stories of those affected by dementia – to listen to their memories of long ago and also to ask them, “How are you feeling now?” “What changes have you noticed?” “What are your concerns?” “Is there anything you want to tell me?” Let’s record them and share their words and wisdom!

There is a free app to listen and record stories – when you search for stories on StoryCorps about dementia/aging/Alzheimer’s, not a lot of stories are available. Let’s enrich that library of recorded memories. Interviews on range in length to a couple minutes to over an hour in length.

The instructions are simple:

Choose someone to interview.
Pick great questions. Find a quiet place to record. Listen closely
When you're finished, share your interview with the world.
Help create an archive of the wisdom of humanity

Here’s a couple of my favorite stories from StoryCorps – I hope you enjoy,

Please let me know if you share your story on StoryCorps, I’d look forward to hearing it!

Posted in memory care, nursing