A couple years ago for a Toastmasters project I decide to compile my experience, research and knowledge about Personal History and dementia into a speech titled TalkShare.
Read on to see how it works.
Good evening members and guests:
- Over the past couple of years, several of my speech topics have been about Personal History
- How to start it and share it with family members
Now, think of Personal History as a conduit to a TalkShare. Let me explain:
At the turn of another century….1899-1900
- Senility was considered a normal part of aging
- By the 1970s it was known as dementia – a disease related to aging
- Currently, dementia is an umbrella term for several types of memory loss and aging is one risk factor
- Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, vascular dementia, head trauma, a tumor, Lewy Bodies and Huntington’s disease all have a place under the dementia umbrella.
- The first and most important step is to find the correct diagnosis for memory loss
- The treatment for vascular dementia, or Parkinson’s is different than treatment for Alzheimer’s
No matter how hard we try, the phenomenon of aging won’t stop
- Common aging battles include
- Gray and/or thinning hair
- Things begin to hurt that never hurt before
- Eyesight and hearing diminish
- Our brains aren’t the same
- “What’s that name/that word…it’s on the tip of my tongue”
- “Where are my keys? I’ll be late picking up the kids!”
- That’s not always memory loss, it’s more like information overload or stress.
The word Alzheimer’s began to creep into mainstream vocabulary around the 1980s or so.
- In the last 30-35 years it’s become more common
- More research dollars are being spent
- Much has been learned, but many questions remain
What does this mean to each of us?
- Some form of memory loss will touch our lives
- It could be a relative, friend or a co-worker’s neighbor!
- In some way it will touch us
- Possibly as individuals
Situations differ yet some facts are the same
- With early on-set Alzheimer’s
- The disease can take over the lives of young people in their 50 & 60 or earlier
- In these rare occasions there’s a more rapid decline
- Being young isn’t necessarily better
- The metabolism is faster so everything accelerates
- It’s more gradual in an aging person
- It doesn’t end with the memory loss of what happened yesterday…
- Awareness of communication usually breaks down first
- Writing ability diminishes
- Language is lost
- All stages vary but eventually walking, sitting, even eating is difficult
- In time the individual is bedridden
- A family could watch this decline for up to a decade
It will affect us. What do we do about it? How do we cope?
While waiting for a medical answer, there are ways to turn this declining time into a meaningful experience. To touch lives in a way that will enrich related generations… HOW?
Begin to TalkShare – using Personal History
The following ideas will help lay the foundation for everyone to discover forgotten memories. Once revived, these memories resurface as renewed moments to be remembered by everyone in the present family and future generations.
- Be consistent, it’s best to set a time to TalkShare
- Each Tuesday at 2:00 or mornings at 10:00 for two hours
- Establish an easy going mood
- Be at eye level to talk with the individual
- Use pleasant words and add compliments
- “I love what you’re wearing today…did you pick it out?”
- Even if it’s terrible!
- Use Personal History to reach for those hidden memories that will produce a smile or even laughter
- Look into their eyes, the answers will be there
Begin with broad easy questions:
- Where were you born, name family members and any pets
- Describe the house where you were raised
- If no answer, move on to another question
- Eventually circle back to a previously unanswered question
- Slowly the answers will become more detailed
- Laugh and be amazed each time they tell the same story.
- For them, it’s the first time to tell it.
- Act as if it’s the first time to hear it!
Another ice breaker is to organize pictures
- Ask for their help to identify people in a picture
- What was the occasion?
- Figure the date/time-line
- Encourage their participation
- Let them know they’re the best person to help do this
- Does the picture or story spark emotions?
- Which is their favorite story and why?
- Reinforce the need for their wisdom and knowledge to compete the task.
Listen for the story. Remember it and use the information again later
- Acknowledge difficulties with past issues, present concerns and share similar experiences
- But don’t dwell on negative or difficult situations
- Play mind exercises to stimulate memories
- Name the presidents during their life time
- How many cars did they own? Name them
- Use easy words
- Ask simple questions in short sentences
- An involved question can become frustrating and cause withdrawal
- Watch the pitch, loudness and tone of your voice…allow for pauses. Use vocal variety
- This begins to sound like goals from the Toastmaster Competent Communicator manual – Vocal Variety
- It works!
Make them feel important
- Use Touch – When listening to a story, gently place a hand on their elbow or gently hold a hand
- Smell – If possible bake, cook or talk about favorite aromas to connect a memory and story
- Music – a great use of ITunes
- Discover their favorite music period – big band, rock and roll, classical, jazz
- Make it toe tapping, dance, sing
- Watch – your facial expressions and gestures
- Don’t make them too large
- We want pleasant memories
Using Personal History as a guide will help make these connections.
Everyone knows the saying, “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes”…well…
Consider entering their mind for awhile. See how Personal History can dig deep and arouse a sleeping memory and capture an emotion. A smile will broaden on the lips or a tear can moisten the eye. The thoughts may not last long but they’ve been captured and can be released again and again. These personal memories will continue to be cherished by loved ones and future generations.
You’ve experienced a TalkShare…using Personal History.
This was a 6-8 minute speech. Expand on the ideas and make it fit your situation.
The speech provides helpful information to be used as a guideline to begin communication with a loved one or a caregiver’s client.
Let us know how it works. Share your experiences.
Here’s one example:
After meeting Bill each Thursday at 1:00 for 24 hours (12 weeks) it was time for a review and to put his thoughts on paper. Instead, he didn’t want to stop. When asked why, he said. “While doing this I started to think of things I haven’t thought about in 70 years. There’s more to tell!”
Don’t wait for dementia to cloud the mind to explore a personal history. It can be done at any time. The sooner the better.
An easy start is to set time aside each week to identify pictures and connect them to a story. Ask grandma or whomever, to help with names and places, you’ll enjoy the time together.
Listen and learn their stories through pictures. Their long term memory is very good. Let them make the connection. Let them recall what THEY enjoyed. NOT what WE feel it SHOULD be.
Besides actual photo albums, edit all those pictures on phones and computers. Can everyone be named, is there a location or special memory of the occasion? Make picture ID a TalkShare experience with the kids. Discover their memories of the wedding, reunion or birthday party. Video their answer holding the pictures, write it down. You’ll be glad you did. And be sure to make it fun.
Enjoy the time together and let us know how it went. Also if you have any questions just ask.
Be sure to sign up to receive future updates…
Thanks for your time and may God Bless…Elaine
Association of Personal Historians – http://www.personalhistorians.org
Alzheimer’s Association – www.alz.org/dementia/types
Toastmasters International – www.toastmasters.org