Creative Storytelling Circle for Those With Moderate to Advanced Dementia

The idea: Dayna researched storytelling as a way of promoting creativity in people in the later stages of dementia, and started a storytelling group.

My name is Dayna Thompson. I am a licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Indiana and I work as the "Alzheimer's Educator" at IU Health Bloomington Hospital's Community Health Department. My job primarily consists of support, education, and consultation for family members who are caring for someone with dementia, support and education for persons diagnosed with dementia, and community education.

Although I am lucky enough to live in a community where there a decent number of support services for care partners of people with dementia, there is a lack of engagement of people actually diagnosed with the disease who are living in the community. This is particularly true for people who are further advanced in the course of the diagnosis.

This led me to begin researching ways that others have been effective in engaging this population. When I came across the idea of storytelling (from various sources, but most famously Anne Basting's "TimeSlips"), I was hooked.

The idea that we, as professionals, can promote creativity in this "naturally creative" population -- thereby promoting social connection, self-esteem, and feelings of purpose -- seemed the perfect thing to fill this hole in my current services. I started a storytelling group, staffed by volunteers. Concurrent with the storytelling group for people with dementia, there is a caregiver support group.

All of the volunteers for the storytelling group were recruited by word of mouth.  I asked a few people I knew if they knew anyone interested in volunteering for this group and had four people step forward.  Their backgrounds varied – social worker, family members of people with dementia, human development graduate student, etc.  We trained them over three hours in dementia basics as well as the logistics of running such a group.  Since then, I have been approached by several other people (community members, local college students) who are interested in being part of the next training.

Watching these storytellers create has also been eye-opening to family and friends of these folks who previously believed that there "wasn't much going on in there."

This is a great idea for therapists and social workers, activity directors, nurses who work regularly with memory-impaired elders, senior center directors, etc.

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