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Creating a Family Legacy: The Gift That Lasts

Enhancing quality of life for seniors involves more than physical care. It also means offering them a chance to be productive and important assets in today's society. Whether senior citizens live at home, assisted living facilities, or long-term nursing care facilities, they are important parts of the family dynamic; emphasizing their role can be key to increasing and improving quality of life for seniors.

"Creating a documented family legacy is, like creating any work of art, a labor of love."

Creating a family legacy is a way to do this. Such legacies, which may take many different forms, provide a sense of stability and history for many families. The benefits of doing so not only comprise preserving family heritage, genealogy and history, but also offer health benefits for all family members. Encouraging mentally stimulating exercise for seniors such as the creation of a family legacy in the form of a scrapbook, a genealogical history or a video is a great way to preserve all types of memories, accomplishments and achievements that can be passed from generation to generation.

Why a family legacy?
Let's face it. Our parents aren't going to be around forever. Many will suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's and will be unable to provide information or answers to many questions that we often have of our elders – questions regarding medical history of cancer, Alzheimer's, psychological conditions such as schizophrenia, and more common issues like heart disease. In essence, a family history is like having your very own geneticist at your disposal.

In addition, it's always nice to visit with aging relatives and listen to the stories they tell about family members who have already passed on. Preserving the family history is an important part of maintaining family connections and bonds. Caregivers of elderly parents should encourage interest and engagement in such activities to help preserve a sense of value and importance. What better way to encourage the elderly than to make him or her the center of the family unit as the official chronologist of the family?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, knowing our family history is vital for the health and development of our children and to develop disease prevention strategies. Check out this resource offered by the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General to get started:

Getting started
Many seniors these days write memoirs, collections of short stories, or create genealogical histories about their family history. These tales can be written down if your parent is able, or recorded on digital audio or videotape.

When developing any kind of family history, ask your parent to write down as much information as he or she can remember about family members: parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. He or she should also include information about birthdates, weddings, deaths and other important family facts.

After memories have been refreshed, it's easier to tackle more. You might suggest your parent break information into the following categories:

  • List of family members
  • Memories of growing up
  • Marriage – first home – children
  • Members of the family in the military, including when and where

Creating a family legacy takes a lot of time, patience and determination. Creating a documented family legacy is like creating any work of art – it's a labor of love. It requires the help and cooperation of as many family members as possible.

Remember that elderly health care addresses the body, spirit and mind. Help your parent compile a collection of memories, and actively engage him or her to offer wit, wisdom and adventurous drama to the historic profile of your family. Prevent boredom and generate interest in family at the same time by encouraging your parent to create a family legacy.