Connecting with your loved one – use tools from the past!

How can I find out what hobbies and interests my loved one with Alzheimer’s had in the past, especially in his growing-up years?
Playful Caregiver

Dear Playful,
Relatives are always a great source of information though not necessarily the information anyone wants them to reveal. If you have yearbooks or picture albums they will often indicate some of their interests. Old papers will also reveal interests, resumes used to list hobbies and interests. Look at wall plaques and awards and then Google the organizations to see if they reveal any history that would indicate interest. I am assuming that the reason you want the history is to find things that make it easier and more useful to interact when visiting. It is so commendable that you are interested and it shows great compassion and concern for your loved one. If you don’t feel you are able to acquire enough information then that too can be alright. Often, people especially in the early and milder stages are very reluctant to do the things they once did quite well. It is assumed that they are fearful that they will not be able to do it well and they would just rather not do anything. However, this too passes and then they will become quite willing to try things they never would have tried, it is one of the few advantages of illness progression. In the meantime, while you are researching you do already know the things your loved one and you enjoy together and the focus should be on enjoying and together. Perhaps one of you has a favorite food or a favorite place or a favorite book or even a favorite subject that you can go over again and again. Variety may seem important to you but “the same old thing” is very comforting to them. Even the ability to complain about “the same old thing” often offers them reassurance that they “know what is going on.” I often ask people if they ever complain about their work or their families and everyone tends to smile at the question. The important part is to show how much you care, increase the hugs and touch and even if you never hugged or touched, try it, you will be amazed at how much better it makes you both feel. I hope in some way this will assist you in finding the information you need, you sound like a wonderful person to have as a “loved one.”