For About and By Caregivers
Stop Digging

By JoAnn Kunkle


"If You Find Yourself in a Hole, Stop Digging"
The quote is from Will Rogers, a simple talking philosopher, who just asked us to look honestly at ourselves, look around and appreciate what we see.
In preparing for a community course on interacting with a dependent loved one to keep them stimulated and positive, I was struck by the many technical supports available and the real lack of hands on, relationship builders for caregivers and the person they love.
One of the last stages that most of us may be lucky to go through is Life Review. It’s not just those few seconds as we look up at the light from above to skip through the high and low points of our lives as we listen to harps plinking “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.”  To look at our lives—the should haves, would haves, could haves or still have to do—gives a person purpose, a sense of self worth and a calmness.  Without ordering our life, our hopes, our regrets, many people forget what they’ve done in their life and who they are and turn to emptiness and despair.
As we get older, we often have extra time to philosophize about our life, unless we have to deal with a major change like an acute medical crisis or a chronic medical problem—our own or a loved one’s. Then all we think of is our condition or the condition of our loved one and we miss out on really appreciating where our lives have led us.
So what can we do to accomplish a Life Review?
Ask questions.  Every day and record the answers.  Have a binder where you can add pages as you go along.
Start with the basics like: Your name.  Were you named for someone in your family? What town were you born in?  What hospital?  Was there a midwife?  Your parents, what were their names?  Where were they born?  How did your parents meet?  How many brothers do you have? Sisters?  Who were you closest to and why?  What things scared you when you were a child?  What was your favorite meal?  Who was your favorite movie star? If you were going on vacation tomorrow, where would you go? What subject in school did you love, or hate?  How old were you when you learned to drive?  How did you feel the day you graduated from high school, married?
Family can make this a wonderful project to remind Dad or Grandma about things they had forgotten and didn’t think anyone really cared about—their life.


JoAnn Kunkle is a Volunteer Coordinator for the United Methodist Homes Elizabeth Church Campus in Binghamton, New York. She holds BS in Sociology, and graduated from SUNY at Brockport.  She is a mother of two, grandmother of nine and wife to one very wonderful man. She has been a Social Worker at a Children’s’ Home, an Information Specialist in a library and a Director of Social Services. You can reach JoAnn at


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