Resources for Family Caregivers of Older Adults
Journal Your Senior Loved One’s Memories

Journal Your Senior Loved One’s Memories

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Most of us have heard our senior loved one telling stories about certain things, usually funny, that happened to them in their life. For instance, my kids have heard frequently from their mom about potatoes for dinner every night or how their dad swung from the back porch from a rope growing up.

However, what we often don’t hear about from our senior loved ones are what towns/houses/cities they lived in, what jobs they had throughout their life, not just the job from which they retired, what pets they had when they were growing up, their family tree, what caused their parents/grandparents death or many other rich details of their life that make them who they are.

How many of us family caregivers know that dad started out selling newspapers while driving a family car that was falling apart or that mom kept a rabbit in her room? Did our parents ever travel and where did they go? What are the names of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and their siblings? Did anyone come through Ellis Island? What is their medical history or blood type?

How will our children and grandchildren know these details?

One way you can capture these precious family memories is beginning now to create a family journal. Take some time daily, weekly, or monthly with your senior loved one, asking them specific questions and allowing them to reminisce. Record these thoughts, information and your impressions in a journal that can be shared with other members of the family. Others in the family can add any knowledge they have about the family in the journal too. Family documents and photos can be added in a scrapbook fashion to enhance the memories.

Tips for Getting Started

  1. Take your time, this is a journey of love.
  2. Get a pen, paper and a notebook of your choosing.
  3. Organize it as you wish separating it into various sections such as family tree, my father/mother, medical history, photos, documents, fun facts, etc.  Whatever fits your family’s needs.
  4. At the top of each piece of paper that will become a page in the journal write a question to be answered and expanded upon such as:

    Where were you born? Where were your parents born? (country, city, hospital, home)

    What was your first job?  What was your favorite job and why?

    What was your fondest memory growing up?
    Where did you travel as a kid?  Adult? Where was your favorite place to visit? Where was the farthest place you went?
    What is your family health history-mom, dad, great-grandparents?
    Where are deceased family member buried?
    What pets did you have growing up?
    Where did you meet mom/dad? Where were you married? Who was in the ceremony?
  5. Review family photos, include them in the journal with thoughts about each one and include who the people are and details about the photos.
  6. Collect family documents like marriage licenses, military records, etc. and include in your keepsake.

Resources You May Like to Guide Your Journaling

This journal will offer you, your family and your senior loved one a way to connect, record family memories that can be shared with generations to come and give a new respect for the lives they lived.  Some of their answers may surprise you!

We would love to hear about your experiences with journaling family memories; please share with all of us.

5 Responses to Journal Your Senior Loved One’s Memories

  1. Barry, my parents are both gone. I had/have a lousy memory and I so wish I’d done a video journal or any kind of journal about their history. Frankly, my family isn’t all that interesting, but I’d still like to have preserved some of those memories.

    Great post. I hope others PAY ATTENTION!

    Can’t wait to have you as a guest co-host on #DadChat!

    • Bruce,
      We are glad you liked the latest post! So many people wish they had taken the time to gather family history either through a journal, letters, videos or any way that works best for them. I hope it does inspire others to start reminiscing before it is too late. I have some information but wished I had known what to ask to get even more information too! Thank you again for your thoughtful comments!

  2. Interesting post and thanks for resources.

    It was my interest in my grandmother’s life history that inspired me to start writing.

    We grew close and became friends when I had children myself and she mentioned that she worked in service (English country house like Downton Abbey) when she left home at fifteen for work. This was where she met her husband who was the gardener.

    I found out the house was/is owned by National Trust (charity) and took her for a visit. It was moving and fascinating and had to be written up. She was able to tell the Trust details about the house they didn’t know and they keep my memoir of our visit in their archive.

    Later, a friend of hers found a picture of herself in scullery maid uniform in a book on country houses. Very rewarding for all but I learned a lot of family history and the writing keeps it there for my family.

    I think getting the info (in your questions) down is particularly useful for women as info in family trees favour men. Eg it wasn’t until I was 30 ish that I fouhd out my grandmother’s maiden name.

    • Wendy,
      Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story! When we begin a dialogue with our parents and grandparents, we never know where the story will take us! It is so rewarding to learn about our family members and share their memories! I am glad that you had the opportunity to relive with her so many fabulous memories! For others, I hope that a post like ours will inspire them to begin a journal before it is too late. Thank you for inspiring others! I hope you check in often for other posts!

  3. For the past four years (since retiring) I’ve been offering presentations to senior groups on “The Love, Lure, and Lore of The Clothesline,” in which I evoke memories of days gone by when laundry was always dried outdoors on the clothesline. I’ve been a collector of all things related to the clothesline — antique laundry implements, representations of clothes blowing in the breeze in art, objects of art, photography, film, literature, history — you name it. I bring along some of my collection and share stories of the days when life revolved around the clothesline. It’s been great fun and very rewarding. I live in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area.

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