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My mother is 97, with some age related memory loss, but no dementia. I'm preparing the house and contents for sale, and I need the answer to a question about the past. I want to ask her in the way most likely to help her remember. Here's the situation. My late father hid a small but valuable family heirloom about fifty years ago. My mother has been fretting about it. I just found a 20-year-old note from my late father to her telling her that he hid it "in the place we used to hide the wine from So-and-So" (an alcoholic employee). I'm afraid that if I just ask her outright where they hid the wine she'll draw a blank. I thought about starting out by asking her, "Do you remember So-and-So" and trying to get her reminiscing. Any thoughts on the matter?

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Thank you both. I made my first attempt today: "I wonder what ever happened to old So-and-So." I knew right away it wasn't going to work --- she confused time periods, people, etc. It's afternoon, she had been asleep, and she tends to sundown early. I dropped the subject after reminding her of a few old stories about So-and-So and then she started remembering and telling stories --- but drew a blank on where my father hid the wine. I'll let it percolate for a day, and catch her in the morning next time.
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Trying to get her reminiscing sounds useful. I think I'd avoid starting with "Do you remember ..." For people who might be a little anxious about their memory that can sound like a test and get them fretting about their abilities.

Maybe start out with "I was just thinking about old So-and-So and how hard he'd try to find our wine supply. ..."

(It took me quite a while to switch to saying "I remember" instead of "Do you remember" with my mother.)
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That's a good idea. Or, you might just start talking about hiding spots and say, I wonder where there might be one in this house, without saying why you want to know. If you don't have luck, I'd consider hypnosis.
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