Finding strength in memories

Reiko had always been a happy person. However, living in the family home had become too isolating for her. With encouragement from her kids, she sold the house and moved into an assisted living facility. They had hoped over time that she would adjust. But four months later the staff said she mostly came down for meals and didn’t interact much with the other residents. Her daughter, Sue, was worried and felt guilty, wondering if they’d made a mistake by encouraging the move.

Sue asked Reiko if she would be willing to have someone come out and visit with her, a person interested in Japanese culture. The Thoughtful Engagement® specialist came for tea and asked Reiko about her childhood in Japan. Reiko was not at all shy. She brought out boxes of photos and had many stories to tell about her life growing up in Tokyo and the trips they would make to the countryside during the summer.

Together they decided to make a memory book. In part, she wanted her grandchildren to learn more about their heritage. But she also wanted to share her wisdom and the lessons she had learned about life. They organized it into chapters, but not the usual “childhood,” “adolescence,” “adulthood.” Instead, Reiko chose important concepts she wanted to pass on and picked a different story to highlight each one. For instance, the chapter on forgiveness was about a time when a friend hurt her feelings. For the courage chapter, she told the story of moving to the United States and how she overcame her fear and loneliness. Completing her college education was the backdrop for her thoughts about perseverance.

The specialist took dictation on her laptop, and together she and Reiko edited the text. Then they chose photos to illustrate it. The specialist had the memoir made into a hard-copy book, and they published several copies for family members and a few for the library at the facility. She also organized a book party at the facility that was very well attended. Many people read Reiko’s book in the library and were eager to talk with her. Reiko received several invitations to come visit and was soon participating in group social activities with her new-found friends.

“I just knew Mom would find things to like at the facility. She just needed some extra support to remember her strengths and find her place in the group.”
—Sue, Reiko’s daughter

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