What do you do when the story reaches a dead end? You keep digging.
Jay Newton-Small knows something about resilience. Her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when Jay was in college. When her mother passed away in 2006, Jay became her father’s primary caregiver.
Jay was a Washington correspondent for TIME Magazine, where she remains a contributor. At TIME she covered stories on five continents from conflicts in the Middle East, to the earthquake in Haiti, and the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. She has written nearly a dozen TIME cover stories and interviewed numerous heads of state, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
Eventually, her father’s care became more than she could manage. She made the difficult decision to move her father into an assisted living facility. At the facility, she was handed a 20-page questionnaire asking for details about her father’s life.
“I handed in the form blank and said I wanted to write a story that would be easier for me and easier for them,” Jay explains. “I wrote down his story and they absolutely loved. It completely transformed his care.”
Writing her father’s story, became the inspiration of Jay’s organization, MemoryWell. MemoryWell is a national network of more than 700 writers who tell the life stories of seniors to help improve their care.
MemoryWell works in a Business-to-Business model, partnering with health systems and insurance organizations to share the stories of elderly and isolated people. MemoryWell is recognized as a premier platform for senior storytelling working in collaboration with some of the biggest names in senior care. Their tools are designed to bring families together in collaboration of a shared family history.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, MemoryWell’s business suddenly halted. Their customers were, correctly, focused on the safety and well-being of their clients.
Jay and her team could have folded their hands and waited for the crisis to pass. But that’s not how Jay Newton-Small thinks.
“I remember, early in my journalism career, I was assigned a story,” Jay remembers. “I made a few calls, but the story seemed like a dead end. I went back to my editor and explained that the story was a dead end. My editor asked about who I had called and what I had learned. He was like ‘That’s not a dead end! There are always more people you can call. There’s always something else you can do. There’s always another way to advance the story.’”
Jay learned that a story might take a new form, but the story goes on. “When we feel like we’re at a dead end, I can always hear my editor’s voice in my head saying ‘There’s no such thing as a dead end. There’s always an option. There’s always something else you can do.’”
In this moment of crisis, MemoryWell is offering a way to bring families together virtually across generations, free of charge. The premier digital intergenerational storytelling platform will make its tools available for free to individuals and families.
“Family and community ties are more important than ever,” Jay explains. “which is why MemoryWell is offering our digital timelines free of charge. This allows families use this time to work together and create a family history project—whether you’re in the same home or across the country.”
MemoryWell is also responding to the unfortunate circumstances of the death of so many seniors and others. How does a family come together to remember a loved one, when gatherings are not practical? MemoryWell has launched a second offering, RemembranceWell, where professional journalists write obituaries that go beyond the facts to show the fullness of people’s lives and personalities.
“In this moment of uncertainty, the ties that bind are more important than ever. Sharing family histories connect the generations and strengthen our families and communities,” Jay says. “This is a unique moment that allows the time so many of us crave to capture family history that we have always wanted to share.”
Learn More About MemoryWell, RemembranceWell:
My November 2017 interview with Jay Newton-Small: https://tonyloyd.com/improving-healthcare-one-story-time-jay-newton-small-memorywell/