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Extended Families: Our Greatest Resources

By Helen Hunter, ACSW, CMSW 

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Write to Each Other 

This is a practice that can be accomplished by the traditional handwritten note or through e-mail. Through regular writings (and the latest photos), the extended family is able to keep abreast of each other’s daily lives. Videotapes are also very useful to keep in regular correspondence with members of the family that you don’t see very often, particularly if you don’t like to write! Remember, too, that communication is a two-way street. You won’t find out about others unless you make an effort to tell them about you!

Make a Book of Memories

This is a wonderful present for older people to give to children. These books contain stories of their lives and are another way of passing their life stories on to subsequent generations. Children enjoy reading these books and can feel “connected” to their relatives who live far away or who have died. You can also make a cookbook of favorite recipes and give a copy to everyone in our family. A story of the origin of each recipe would make the book truly special to the extended family. You can expand the family memory idea by putting together a yearly photo calendar, with appropriate photos for each month of the year. List family birthdays and anniversaries for each month, as a reminder to everyone. The family can get involved by sending their favorite photos from the past year, and this could serve as a “sure” holiday gift every year.

Extended families should be considered a treasure in that, even though we are related, we have diverse interests and talents that we can share with each other. In doing so, we can strengthen the bonds that we share and pass on to our children the enthusiasm that we have in sharing with each other. This way, they too will realize just how lucky they are to have such a varied and special group of people to be related to. 


Helen Hunter, ACSW, LSW is an independent geriatric social worker consultant trainer and spiritual director. Ms. Hunter is also a published author and has had numerous articles published in local and national magazines and journals, focusing on elder care and family care issues. Helen served as the medical social worker and outreach coordinator for the Parkinson Association of Southwest Florida in Naples, Florida, before returning with her family to her hometown in Central New Jersey in 2009 to care for her mother, who has Parkinson Disease. Ms. Hunter is licensed as a social worker in the states of New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Florida and can be reached via e-mail at:



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