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WNIJ Perspectives
Perspectives are commentaries produced by and for WNIJ listeners, from a panel of regular contributors and guests. You're invited to comment on or respond to any Perspective on our Facebook page or through Twitter (@wnijnews), in keeping with our Discussion Policy. If you would like to submit your own Perspective for consideration, send us a script that will run about 90 seconds when read -- that's about 250 words -- and email it to NPR@niu.edu, with "Perspectives" in the subject line.

Stories That Can Solve Mysteries


Imagine this: You are in the room you were assigned; nearby is a woman asking you questions. There is a problem she is trying to solve. The problem is you.

For some reason, you panic every time the dinner bell rings in the care center where you live. You can’t explain. You live in a fog, thanks to dementia, or Alzheimer’s, or some form of serious memory loss.

Somewhere there’s pages and pages of data on you, but today the woman holds your “story.” It’s a quick read that highlights important chapters and characters in your life.

Then she sees it -- how you were trained to respond to that bell in the fire house where you worked for so many years. This important fact was part of a simple story about the person you used to be.

You can thank journalist Jay Newton-Small for this idea. Her father had Alzheimer’s, and caregivers struggled to understand his needs. She filled out a 20-page questionnaire but felt it would be of little use. So the reporter in her wrote her father’s story, adding humanity to a patient number and name.

“It completely transformed his care,” she said.

She went on to create Memory Well, a group of reporters who craft life stories for people like her dad. The stories include favorite memories, photos, music, and videos.

What a great idea! We all need to write our stories — a reminder that we made a difference in many ways to many people.

I share this story for all caregivers and families with loved ones living in that fog -- and for all of us who might face that challenge.

Because it’s not hard to imagine there’s someone in the room with you. And they have a mystery to solve.

And that beautiful, wonderful mystery ... is you.

I’m Lonny Cain, and that’s my perspective.

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