Entry By: Erin Ball, MA, CCC-SLP
Tom and his wife, Sharon, sit in a conference room of the nursing home where he lives. This is an eventful day for them—they are about to record the story of their lives together.
A few weeks earlier, Tom—who has Alzheimer’s disease—had been asked by the activities director to participate in StoryCorps, an oral history project. It seemed like a great idea—to capture memories of Tom and Sharon’s life together before Tom’s illness erases them. To Sharon, the 40-minute interview seems like a challenge, but one she is willing to take on for the opportunity to have a CD to listen to and distribute to family. She is excited but a little concerned about Tom’s ability to remember their story. She wonders if he will focus long enough to complete the recording—StoryCorps is here only today, and she doesn’t know if Tom’s day will be good or bad.
Sharon has prepared a list of 10 interview questions (“How did you feel when we first met? How has your Alzheimer’s disease affected our life together?”). A StoryCorps representative facilitates the interview. In the six interviews scheduled in the nursing home today, residents—all of whom have memory loss—will be interviewed by spouses, children, or grandchildren; one resident is being interviewed by a staff nurse.
The facilitator puts on headphones, tests the recording equipment, and pushes some buttons on the digital recorder. When the microphones are in place, Sharon and Tom begin the conversation of a lifetime.