Sunday, July 12, 2009

3 Tips for a Celebration of Life

Celebrations of Life can and should be expanded to include the life story, not just the pictures, of a loved one.

1. Remember life stories to go with pictures shared. If you are creating a display of pictures, include a paragraph or two that describes the people, times, and places noted in the pictures. A picture is almost always worth 1,000 words (or at least a few sentences).

2. Be intentional about having people share their own memories of your loved one and record these memories. At a celebration of life or memorial service, give people cards that say... "I remember..." or "One of my fondest memories is...." or "Grandma touched my life by..." It will help people think about a special way this person touched their lives, and the rest of the family will enjoy reading these at a later time.

3. Do your best to capture the life stories of other loved ones--and celebrate their lives--before they pass away. Life celebrations are especially powerful when your loved one is there to experience it. We have found that older adults love to create autobiographies with the help of family or friends ( can help). Also, they can help in creating a storyboard--a display of their pictures and life stories--to share with their children and grandchildren. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to say or write down their memories during a special birthday or anniversary celebration. It will make for a fun and interesting experience for everyone. Appreciation and love will abound!

Beth Sanders is the author of the Memory Journal ( and the founder of She resides in Marysville, Ohio with her husband and two children.

4 Tips for Creating a Memory Book for Alzheimer's

People with memory problems can benefit greatly from creating a memory book, and many local Alzheimer's Association chapters recommend this. A memory book can benefit both the person with dementia and his or her caregivers.

1. The process is as important as the product. The creation of a memory book shouldn't be just a one-time event. Instead, the ideal situation is for the creation of the memory book to be an ongoing process where the person is asked questions over a period of time to stimulate their memory and to continually build a strong relationship with one or more caregivers. The process of capturing the memories, assembling pictures, and discussion is as important as any finished product--a beautiful memory book.

2. Pictures help a person with memory loss to remember....but this is not a quiz. It is wonderful to look through photo albums and reminisce together, but it's NOT time to quiz the person with memory loss to see who they remember and who they don't remember. Be patient and keep the questions more specific for your loved one. You don't need to start every sentence with... "Do you remember..." because the answer could be "no" a lot. Instead, ask more specific or yes or no questions. For example, instead of saying, "Do you remember your wedding day?" you could ask a few yes or no questions or more specific questions like... "Was it hot on your wedding day?" or "What did your wedding dress look like?" or "Did you go on a honeymoon? Where did you go?"

3. The more you know, the more you love. People with memory loss are sometimes difficult to care for, but a memory book helps the caregiver see this person with new eyes. They have led a rich and interesting life with people, times, and places to share. It's important to see them as a child, a youth, a worker, a parent, and a grandparent. There is always more caring and empathy when the whole person is understood. It can also help a caregiver understand behaviors that may occur with Alzheimer's--things sometimes tied to an event from the past or childhood.

4. Share what you learn in the memory book. The memory book will be an ongoing source for discussion as someone comes to visit whether in a private home or in a nursing home or assisted living setting. It works out well when there are pictures found to complement the memories and they are DISPLAYED as part of a loved one's care plan. It doesn't help anyone if these memories are hidden in a book in a drawer somewhere. Make it easy for caregivers to see and use the information gathered in daily conversation.


Beth Sanders is the author of the MemoryBio Photo Album & MemoryBio Journal--designed for building relationships and capturing memories through a generic photo album containing over 200 colorful pictures and 35 themes such as Hometown & Neighborhood, Travel & Vacations, Jobs & Careers, and many more. Answers and pictures are then compiled in the MemoryBio Journal. This tool won the 2009 Caregiver Friendly Award along with's other memory capturing products. See the "Shop" button at for more information.

5 Tips for Interviewing Mom & Dad

5 Tips for Interviewing Mom & Dad

1. Don't delay and don't talk yourself out of it. It's time to capture mom's story in print, on video, via audio, or writing via the web. Mom's life story or dad's life story is far more interesting than you can ever imagine. Really and truly, your own parents can tell you things that no one else can share.
2. Find the story behind their pictures. A great place to start is to review an old photo album together. Record what they say about a few of their favorite pictures. You aren't going to have time to get the story behind every picture, but you can get a few of mom's favorite memories or dad's favorite memories through pictures. Pick the ones that are really funny or the ones where their eyes light up as they tell the tale. A picture is worth 1,000 words.
3. Structure is good. You will probably be glad you did your homework and you know what you want to ask when you get together with mom and dad. You can always ask questions over the phone or email that tech-savvy parent with your questions. LifeBio's structure for example would have you ask about people in their lives, childhood memories and historical events, the real world of adulthood, and end with values, beliefs, life lessons, and more.
4. Pick a quiet place for an interview. If you are planning to use a video camera, you'll want to pick a quiet spot free of distractions for interviewing mom. If you are interviewing dad and the phone rings or someone walks in the room, it just takes away from the video. Post a sign on the door--do not disturb. Test your equipment and test the spot where you are recording. You want the video to show up well with the lighting in the room. LifeBio's Video Recording Kit may be something you want to consider because it includes our Guide to Interviewing and Recording and all the equipment you'll need.
5. Smile a lot and speak up. Mom and dad want to know that you are glad to be recording their stories. Also, be sure you are speaking loudly and clearly so you don't have to repeat questions. Mumbling is not a good idea when you are the interviewer. Have confidence in yourself and make sure they know how much you want these life stories told. You can help them do something important by capturing mom's life stories or dad's life stories for all time. This is a priceless gift to both of you--and it just might change your life!

Whose story do you want to capture?

Maybe you're thinking about telling and sharing your own life story. You've always wanted to write a book and LifeBio can help you take that first step by moving you step-by-step through the autobiography process.

Maybe you're thinking about helping a loved one (parent, grandparent, best friend, or other people) tell and share his or her life stories. LifeBio's questions change out your conversations and give you something interesting to talk about.

We want you to know that LifeBio is useful in both situations. In fact, you can start your own LifeBio and work on someone else's too--with one password-protected LifeBio membership.

Life stories are a priceless gift. You'll be surprised at the new information you learn about yourself and the people you love. LifeBio helps people write what other people would like to read.

People who use LifeBio:

1. Parents
2. Grandparents
3. Genealogists
4. Scrapbookers
5. New Writers
6. Students/Grandchildren
7. Teachers
8. Adult children (with parents/grandparents)
9. Social Workers
10. Home Visitation Volunteers
11. Chaplains
12. Hospice Volunteers
13. Nurses
14. Activities Directors
15. Wellness Directors
16. Geriatric Care Managers

Grandma and granddaughter connect long distance using

J.D. Whitman discovered the life of an amazing person, her grandmother--Mary Katherine O’Grady Coombs, when she began a school project using

Every Sunday for about five months, 17-year-old J.D. called 83-year-old Mary on the telephone because their homes are separated by hundred of miles—from western to eastern Pennsylvania. They also spent a week together working on the project. Using the more than 250 questions available at as a guide, J.D. began typing her grandmother’s life story into LifeBio’s web template. Here are excerpts from Mary Coombs’ 83-page, hardcover LifeBio Book.

Read Mary's LifeBio....

writing an autobiography, memory book, interviewing grandma

Wednesday, July 01, 2009