Our one-hour personal history project

Many of us view nursing homes and long-term care facilities as depressing places. Of course, some fit that description. But at others, caring employees are driven to bring joy to residents and their families.

As a hospice volunteer, I spent time with a patient in one such place over the past four months. And I owe one leader there a big thank you for planting the seed that has become Time Capsule Memoirs’ newest offering.

personal history booklet
We can create a booklet or edited audio recording in just a couple of weeks.

Her name is Debbie, and one day last month, she and I got talking about personal history. As I usually do, I focused on the value of making people feel heard, and of saving stories for future generations. What she saw in personal history, though, was something else: a mechanism for healing.

Debbie works at a memory care facility, serving nearly four dozen people affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. She explained that when families move a loved one in, many see it as the beginning of an end. Everything seems to be shrinking: the size of that person’s world, the potential for spending time as a family, and of course, the number of memories binding them together. When a move is complete, it is not uncommon for her to look out her window and see family members crying in the parking lot.

A personal history project, she said, could let families focus on creating something new. It could also help them focus on memories that remain intact, instead of those that have been lost.

We decided to scale everything down into two simple offerings. Each starts with the resident and family deciding on a part of life to document (e.g., childhood, military experience, etc.). Then they together record the most important details on short form that will help guide my one-hour interview. The final product is either:

  • a professionally designed, 16- to 24-page booklet recording the loved one’s memories, in his or her own words, as a collection of vignettes; or
  • an audio recording of the interview, edited for clarity and maximum impact, saved digitally for easy access by the entire family.

There are more details, of course, as well as options to customize each project. But I’m excited that I can offer the booklet for $395 and the audio recording for $250. I’m also excited that outside of long-term care facilities, this process and format might suit all kinds of clients who want to capture essential life stories relatively inexpensively, easily and elegantly. Quickly, too, since once the interview is complete, we’re just weeks away from delivery of the final project.

Here’s hoping that the process and the products turn out to be as meaningful as we think they can be. And that people like Debbie are more the norm than the exception within the senior living community.