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Library Resources can be First Step in the Journey Down Memory Lane

There's more than one type of assistance for elderly or disabled patrons; and the library will deliver it right to your home.

Elmhurst Public Library is more than a place to find the latest bestseller or a classic novel. Librarians listen to the needs of patrons and work to offer services and materials that can truly make a difference in their lives, no matter the situation. For instance, anyone with memory impairments–or loved ones who care for them–can find a world of resources.

Conversation Starters

Reminiscing can be a way to unlock the past for those with memory loss from dementia or Alzheimer's. But caregivers or nursing home activity directors often need ideas for gentle guidance down memory lane. Elmhurst Public Library has interactive kits that can help those with memory loss reconnect with their past and talk about their experiences.

Outreach and Assistive Technology Librarian Joyce McIntosh recently showed off one of the Bi-Folkal kits in its sturdy yellow case that resembles airline bags of yesteryear. The content of each kit varies with the topic, but each contains slides, photos and props related to a theme, as well as a leader's activity book that includes questions, stories and songs. The idea is to offer many ways to jog a memory and inspire a conversation about the past, McIntosh said.

Because their aim is to promote remembering and sharing, the company that makes the Bi-Folkal kits chose the name not only to refer to the glasses that have two foci, but also to incorporate the word “folk.”

“The folk tradition of handing down stories is at the center of our work,” according to the company's Web site.

Bi-Folkal kits are not only for in-home caregivers but also for activity directors at senior centers, nursing homes or adult day-care facilities.

The library offers other resources for those who are taking care of people with memory loss. A photo packet featuring scenes from everyday life in the early- to mid-20th century can spark a conversation about sports, visiting the store or taking a ride in the country. Questions are also included. A photo depicting a ladies' bridge club meeting, for example, asks about experiences with hosting clubs, including what food was served, how long the host took to prepare, and who watched children while the bridge game was played.

Driving to Serve

Homebound delivery service will bring books, compact discs, memory kits, reading machines, and any other circulating materials to any Elmhurst resident who has an illness or disability and cannot come to the library. Not only does this service benefit the homebound person, but can be a big relief for their relatives or caregivers, too.

“Delivering the item is really a break for the caregiver,” McIntosh said.

Other assistive services that can be taken home for use include readers that enlarge print, large-print books, closed-caption decoders, and radio receivers that “read” newspaper and magazine articles. An assistive technology room at the library features software that helps with reading comprehension or converting text to speech, a large-type keyboard, and headphones with a microphone.

“Much of our outreach is focused on helping people remain independent,” McIntosh said. Many of these services can be of help to users with low vision, autism, speech impairments, dyslexia, or English as a second language students.

McIntosh said she has continued the work of librarians before her, but always keeps an eye out for new services and materials that can help patrons. To continue to do this, she relies on volunteers. Currently, the library is in need of a volunteer to deliver materials to homebound residents.

To check out a Bi-Folkalkit or any other memory-related outreach items, visit the Circulation Desk. While the kits are kept behind the desk, they do circulate for three weeks and are also available to patrons at other libraries through interlibrary loan.

For more information, or to volunteer, call (630) 279-8696 or email outeach@elmhurst.org.

Joyce McIntosh July 05, 2011 at 03:21 PM
Carol, thank you for bringing these resources to our attention and for your coverage of library activities and services! I just wanted to note that the email address listed at the end of the article should read outreach@elmhurst.org.

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