Following on from yesterdays post, and this weeks theme of raising awareness of dementia, today’s post is about the second lesson of yesterdays workshop. It is about “Capturing Life’s Journey”, which is a technique used by Home Instead. The booklet itself is copyrighted by Home Instead, but there is nothing to stop you from using the ideas to create your own folder of memories from your loved one.
The idea behind the Life’s Journey is to help start conversations with a person who has dementia, as well as easing anyone into the caring role. Anyone can read the Journey and understand the client more as a person, so making the care process more personal, it can also be used in times of difficulty such as pain or anxiety to ease the mind of the dementia sufferer e.g. as a diffuser. People with dementia like to feel comforted and secure in their surroundings, and what better way to do this than through a story, or a memory, however broken. By piecing together snippets of the memory told to different people by each writing down the segment told we can begin to piece together the whole puzzle and complete the memory for our loved ones. By then telling the competed story to our loved ones we can hope to re-instate in their mind, or bring joy by helping them to remember a good time.
We were told at the workshop yesterday about the importance of asking open ended questions. A bit like when children start talking (ECAT-Every Child A Talker), we have to give them the option to express their view through the answer. By just asking closed questions; such as questions where our loved ones can only respond yes or no, we are closing off the option to talk, or expand on an idea that might be in their head. Some options of open ended questions begin with “Tell me about” “Why” and “How”. If your loved one is stuggling to think of specific memories, or is not opening up, try asking about objects in their surroundings, such as “What can you tell me about that artwork?”.
There are several chapters to the Journal, some of which may be easier to answer than others. For example my nan cannot recall much about her work for the moment, but had no trouble telling me about her favourite things. These are not designed to be an interview, each section from each chapter can be used to start conversations, or can be filled in as and when our loved one starts talking.
Stories from grandparents
Memories of parents
- Aged 2-12:
- Aged 12-20
- Family Traditions/Celebrations
- Big Events
Troubling Times (This is a good one to recognise anything that may act as a trigger to difficult behaviours)
- Favourite Things
During the last stages of dementia it may difficult to answer questions, or recall any memories. So it is a good idea to start this as early as possible with loved ones. I love the idea of this journal, I wrote a book about my grandad, as he had had so many life experiences and I wanted something to tell my children about. But my nan has always been quite closed up about her past, so it is nice to have something to prompt her to talk about it. I will be doing the same for my grandma too (she doesn’t know it yet, though I know she reads this), as I really want to be able to tell my children about the things my grandparents have done.
Once we know about the things that our loved ones enjoyed before the dementia set in, we can offer them the options to have these things, without them struggling to remember what they want, or how to ask for it. For example if your loved one seems down, but you know they love gardening ask if they would like to join you pruning the rose bush.
Nan and I sat down and had a massive chat yesterday, she would not stop talking! I asked her about her wedding. She was able to remember grandads full name, and the fact that he hated his first name, so he made everyone call him by his middle name. She told me that they didn’t go out on dates as such, but they would go dancing, at least nan would and grandad would sit and watch while she danced with colleagues. Nan also told me that she could not recall grandad ever proposing (I will get to the bottom of this!) and she thinks it just progressed to marriage. For their honeymoon they got the train to Cornwall and stayed by the beach, nan’s mum escorted them both to Victoria Station (!) which they both laughed about long into their marriage.
I hope this helps some of you to start conversations with your loved ones, whether or not they have dementia. As I have mentioned before I think it is important to learn more about our family histories and this is a great way to start.
Thankyou once again for reading