Thinking about Dementia: Culture, Loss, and the Anthropology of Senility

By Annette Leibing; Lawrence Cohen | Go to book overview

8
Creative Storytelling and
Self-Expression among People
with Dementia

ANNE DAVIS BASTING

When memory fades and one's grasp on the factual building blocks of one's life loosens, what remains? Is a person still capable of growth and creative expression even when dementia strikes? To answer these questions, I relay the story of the TimeSlips Project, a research and public-arts storytelling project aimed at nurturing creative expression among people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia (ADRD) and at sharing the stories that emerged in TimeSlips workshops with the public at large to increase awareness of the creative potential of people with ADRD. I will (i) outline the storytelling method and my study of it; (2) analyze the content of the stories; (3) discuss interviews with staff, family caregivers, and student participants; and (4) describe the TimeSlips's outreach program's effectiveness in changing public perception of people with ADRD.


The Storytelling Method

The TimeSlips storytelling method evolved out of a year of experimenting with a variety of exercises in creative dramatics. After espousing the virtues of theatrical performance for older adults in my research on senior theater troupes across the United States, I wanted to see if "playing a new role" could benefit people with ADRD as much as I found it did for the well elderly. People with dementia clearly have few meaningful social roles available to them. With holes where memories of their children and spouses used to be, people with ADRD often lose even the most basic roles available to us all—that of partner or parent. In creating the TimeSlips method, I set about to establish a social role for people with ADRD, that of storyteller, that would in turn provide access to meaningful self-

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