JOURNAL IN A JAR
Pamela Wessinger, ADC
I have worked in Long-Term Care for 18 years. I have not only worked in Activities but I
am also a CNA. I would have to say of the two, my most rewarding challenge has been
Activities. Each day brings smiles, hugs, and a tremendous supply of blessings. When
I leave in the afternoon, I can truly say, it's worth it all.
As I look into the faces of my residents who have been stricken with Alzheimer's,
Dementia and other illnesses that have made them conform to a different way of life
than what they have always known, I am reminded how precious our memories are.
Sometimes I find myself looking in a blank stare and thinking, "What kind of person
were you?", "What did you do for a living?", “What were your childhood fears?" and
“Where were you born?" They, of course, cannot answer those questions now, but how
wonderful it would've been if someone had written those answers down for their
families to look back on and read so they could remember the person they once were. I
wish I had done that for my grandparents because I have a lot of questions without
answers. With that in mind, I decided I would begin a journey with my resident's so they
would have something to give to their children and grandchildren. I created their own
"Journal in a Jar". This is a wonderful activity designed to help you get to know your
resident's better, as well as, the wonderful gift of memories that cannot be replaced for
those who know them best.
We should all preserve our memories and preserve them well because the time may
come when we lose them. It's one thing for us to lose our keys in the mornings or
forget what we ate for lunch, but to look into our children's face and not be able to recall
their name or remember who we are and were is totally different. Also, this journal is a
precious keepsake for your family members to pull out and read after their loved one
has passed away. I had one family member tell me that she sat down with a cup of
coffee and had a ball just pulling out the slips of paper and reading the answers their
mother gave to the questions that were asked of her, and this is a way they can do just
The questions I ask are from the day they were born to what their funeral plans are. I
cover birth, adolescent, teen years, marriage, birth of children, thoughts on being in the
nursing home and death. I cover deep thought questions such as: "What is the one
thing you were afraid of when you were a small child? What are you most afraid of
now? If you could live your life over again, would you? Why or why not? If you could
change any part of yourself, what would it be? Tell me about your ancestors." And so
much more! In all, I probably have close to 100 questions. It takes several days to
complete for each resident.
How I begin is I type up and print a sample copy of questions off the computer. I then
meet with the resident and begin asking the questions. While they are talking, I am
writing. After I am finished, I go back into the computer and add their answers in my
format (question and answer). I keep doing this until their journal is completed. After I
am done, I print the questions and answers off on different colored paper or white
(doesn't matter). I cut each question/answer out into a strip. I then fold each strip and
place it in a large mouth mason jar. I tape a little poem on the inside of the jar facing the
front explaining the purpose of the jar. Their full name is added at the bottom of the
poem including their first, middle, maiden and last name. Underneath that, I place their
date of birth.
After the jar is full and all questions are included, I hot glue polyfill on top of the lid. I cut
a piece of fabric out in the shape of a square on top of the polyfilled lid. Hot glue is
placed along the inside rim of the ring. I press the lid up into the ring, making sure it is
snug and poufy. The lid is then screwed on the jar. Finally, a piece of ribbon of my
choosing is hot glued along the outside of the ring with a pretty bow tied in front. (Make
sure the bow is in front of your poem.) I also tie different colored wooden name tags
that are purchased from craft stores with the name: made with love, from mom or dad.
It is then ready to be given to the family, which is the best part.
Families are so happy to receive this gift of love. I can’t tell enough about the many
touching stories I've received from family who’s loved one has passed on telling me
how much they appreciate their jar of memories. I don't know who gets more out of it...
the families, the resident or me. It's a great way to reminisce with your resident's.
There will be laughter and there may be tears but it's a precious gift that you had a part
in. I'm a firm believer in what you give to the lives of others; you can't help but get it back
in return. There are many websites you can go to and search out questions that may be
of interest to you. Just Google search: "journal questions". It doesn't have to be long. It
can be as simple as you want. How you create it is up to you. May it be as much a
blessing to you as it is to me.
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