Three years ago, when Jay Newton-Small moved her father into a care facility in Sykesville, Md., she was given a 20-page questionnaire to fill out. Her father had Alzheimer’s disease, and his fading memory and agitated behavior made it hard for caregivers to understand his needs. But as Newton-Small leafed through the lengthy form, she had a hunch that it was not the best approach.
“I was like, ‘You’re never going to have time to read 20 pages on each patient,” said Newton-Small, a District resident who was a reporter for Time magazine. So, at the risk of the staff thinking she was “weird,” she offered to use her professional skills to write her father’s story for them — including the bit about how he was once a part-time driver for Winston Churchill and how he liked to amble around the cypress trees and lavender fields in the south of France, where he had a country home.