Interview your loved one

You might want to start by reminiscing with your loved one about his or her family history, traditions and celebrations. Often, childhood games, homes and pets are good opening topics — especially as Alzheimer's progresses and your loved one has trouble remembering recent events. You might also talk about favorite sports, books, music and hobbies, as well as cultural or historical events.

Depending on the status of your loved one's memory, you might also want to interview neighbors, friends, family members and other close contacts.

Documents also help

Other sources of information might include old documents, important papers or personal correspondence. Consider making copies of anything precious for safekeeping.

"By creating a life story, you affirm for your loved one all the positive things he or she has done in life and can still do," Dr. Smith says. "Even after your loved one's memories start to fade, creating a life story shows that you value and respect his or her legacy. It also reminds you who your loved one was before Alzheimer's disease."

Oct. 04, 2011 See more In-depth