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Homewatch offers innovative way to preserve memories

May 22, 2014 |

Paul Bloom (seated) with his family (left to right) grandson Jeffrey, son Elliott, daughter-in-law Anne and grandson Matthew.
Reminder Publications submitted photos

By Carley Dangona

WEST SPRINGFIELD – Preserving memories through photographs is a long tradition of recording history, but commemorative interviews are the newest trend in capturing precious moments.

Homewatch Caregivers now offers StoryCorps-style interviews – as featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition” – as part of its Memory Loss Initiative. A family member, friend, or caregiver interviews the elder, who tells the stories of the past in his or her own words while being recorded, to save the memory before it is lost due to diseases that cause memory loss.

“It’s a lovely, personal commentary about their lives,” Judy Yaffe, co-owner of Homewatch Caregivers, said. “It’s all about the holistic treatment of the families. We get the stories before they are lost.”

Kristin Mauk Bowe, an Elder Care Dementia Specialist II for Homewatch, introduced the program.

She said, “I thought this would be wonderful to do with our clients. By sharing their story, it shows them that we value their life and that their life has meaning.”

Bowe explained Homewatch seeks to keep its clients “engaged” and “captures the essence” of the person through “a great bonding experience.” She noted that the interview is “not a comprehensive autobiography,” but a “keepsake.”

Yaffe stated there is no additional charge for the service. A copy of the recording is given to the interviewee and the family.

Yaffe explained why Homewatch uses the term “elders.” She said, “We really believe in honoring them. Just because someone’s 95 – they’re still there – they’re still a person and they still have value. Elders have a valued position in society.”

She added that sometimes elders don’t value themselves. Their loss of independence can lead to depression and grief. This program is one way to remind them of their importance.

Bowe said, “It feels very rewarding seeing the joy it brings to people’s lives. It’s touching. I think that all life has value. The people we work with are wonderful.”

She continued, “Being able to share their story is cathartic. The storyteller is giving a gift. People have really been enjoying it. There’s been a lot of laughing and some crying – a little bit.”

Reminder Publications sat down with Paul Bloom, 98, one of the clients who participated in the commemorative interviews. He grew up in Springfield and has lived in Longmeadow for the past 60 years. Bloom has one son who lives in Florida.

“I thought my family might want to know the history,” he said.
When asked what he wanted to his legacy to be, Bloom responded, “I want to leave the world in a better place than when I came in.”

Bloom was known as “Mr. Trade Show” in his heyday. He organized and hosted the first trade shows in the Springfield and Hartford Civic Centers, known now as the MassMutual and XL centers, respectively. He personally gave former Connecticut Gov. Ella Grasso a tour of his show in Connecticut. One year, he ran 19 trade shows that were hosted along the East Coast, as far south as Florida.

“I didn’t wait for things to happen. I made them happen. Trade shows kept you alive – there was so much information [to learn],” he said.

He just completed writing his autobiography and is searching for an editor for the book. Why write? He said, “When I’m gone, how will my ancestors know what I went through?”

Bloom enjoys interacting with others and was excited about the Homewatch program. “I like to get along with people. There’s nothing like having good friends to talk to.”

To learn more about the Homewatch’s Memory Loss Initiative, visit www.homewatchcaregivers.com/western-mass/west-springfield,-ma/home-care.aspx.

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