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Memory Loss and Family History

Updated: Nov 12, 2022

Late-stage Dementia can create an inability to retell specific personal and family histories. Dementia might make long-held treasured memories slow and difficult to retrieve or morph into something different from how you remember them.

Memory Loss and Family History

Research shows that people who have a terminal illness desire opportunities to give as well as to receive. Compiling a family's history through recordings and other activities is a gift the person with Dementia can provide to their family.

Together, family members and their loved-one can explore the treasure trove of stored photographs and other memorabilia. With or without the assistance of a professional videographer, audio and video recordings give another perspective on the people and events that molded your loved one's life and perhaps influenced yours as well.

Before getting started, it is essential to consider the permanence and availability of electronically stored photographs and audio and video recordings. Floppy discs and hard discs have been obsolete for many years. Compact discs (CDs) and hard drives are quickly becoming phased out - and there is no reason to assume that cloud computing will last forever.

Probably the best solution, in addition to electronic storage, is to make hard (paper) copies of photographs, scanned memorabilia, and transcripts of audio recordings. With the help of online self-publishing services, you can design a beautiful book that contains selected images, transcripts, and commentary.

Some ideas:

1. Video record your loved one as they tour their home or another meaningful location. Ask "tell me about questions" to get the stories associated with framed photographs, a chipped and repaired vase, or a lovely rose garden. Encourage further discussion by asking logical follow-up questions. And above all – listen!!

2. Record your loved one as they recall various events, such as a fascinating fishing trip, birth, or having fought in the Vietnam War.

3. Create a memory box containing small objects plus a few sentences describing each item's significance. Have your loved one write memory "tweets" on slips of paper. Memory Tweets might be like, "Make my steaks medium rare and my eggs over-easy, "or "I remember the day you were born. The sun was shining, and I was the happiest person alive."


1. KE Steinhauser, et al. "In Search of a Good Death: Observations of Patients, Families, and Providers," (accessed May 2, 2016)

Content Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, Ph.D., is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of "An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.", available through Amazon.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts- that have been provided to us with permission or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice; please consult your doctor.

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