It can often be challenging for us—family and caregivers—to carry a conversation with a loved one who has dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease or other cognitive disorders. Beyond the “It’s so nice to see you today.” and “Isn’t the weather just beautiful” and “I like your shirt. Nice color.” What do we say?
Sometimes we stumble upon a good conversation and everyone is delighted. I saw one such magical moment the other day. The daughter mentioned she was going to have a date night with her husband and go to the movies. Then her Mom asked if they were going to see The Wizard of OZ. That turned into a great conversation about the magic of the film, the great storyline and the characters, how they love watching it every year and eating home-made popcorn.
Wouldn’t you like to stumble on that type of conversation more often? One of the ways to create a more meaningful conversation is to “go back in time” and focus in on the small moments. Little things like how Mom got you up in the morning, the routine for going to bed, or licking cake batter from a spoon. How about the time you crashed on your bicycle and dad bandaged your leg with toilet paper? Think of those stories that always get a laugh.
You probably can think of a dozen little stories as you read this blog! Sounds like it’s time for you to make a “Memory Jar” (or Box). It’s easy to do and it makes a great, useful gift too!
1. Start by jotting down all your favorite memories and little details. Example, “I remember on Thanksgiving I always loved your Pumpkin Pie.” Or “You love The Laurence Welk Show.” Keep the memories to a single sentence. Break up complex ideas. You can have three or four memories from each holiday listed individually.
2. Next, type up the memories in a large font, like a 16. Put a couple blank spaces between each memory and then print it all out. You’ll want it to be several pages worth!
3. After printing, (if you choose, laminate the pages so they are more durable), cut out the memories into paper strips and place them in a jar with a lid or a pretty box. An inexpensive jewelry box works well too. Decorate it or put their name on it.
- Make a second jar/box so you can have one, filled with memories.
5. Share the little memories together! This keepsake will be a wonderful gift to read over throughout the year. It will provide both of you with great, positive affirmations of love and your family traditions. We have Residents that read through them on their own and Caregivers use the jars to start conversations.
So, why not help your loved one reconnect to special memories and give yourself the gift of easy conversation starters?!
Could you use more ideas on how to be conversational with someone who has memory care needs? Sunshine Care also has the following tried and true conversation starters posted in all our houses…
- This weekend we went to…
- The weather today is…
- I talked with your sister/brother/friend the other day and she said….
- At church this week the pastor talked about…
- I have a dog named _______ and he is…
- Someday you will have to meet my daughter, she is…
- You are such a good mom/dad because…
- You know when I was a kid we used to…
- I heard you can fix just about anything.
- I heard you have a green thumb, do you like roses?
- I heard you love to dance. What about the waltz?
Things to reminisce about:
- Hide & seek at dusk
- Sitting on the porch
- Hot bread and butter
- Penny candy in a brown bag
- Hopscotch, kickball and Jump Rope
- Cowboys and Indians
- Being tickled to death
- Climbing trees
- Building forts
- Laughing so hard it hurts
- Licking the beaters when mom made a cake
- Walking on the Beach
- Long Car Trips
- Songs around the fire or piano
- Popcorn at the Movies
- Summer Vacation
- What was your very first car ?
- Sewing your own clothes
- Man Walking on the Moon
- Shoe Shopping
- Favorite TV Shows: I Love Lucy, Lawrence Welk, Johnny Carson
- Candlelight Dinner
- Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny
- Holding a child’s hand
- Playing Cards, Monopoly or Shooting Pool
- First Job, Last Job before Retiring
- Favorite Pets /Animals
- Arranging Flowers in a Vase
- Getting a Bear Hug
P.S.: The Memory Jar is also a great thing to send to a student that is away at college!!