It is possible to live well with dementia. According to a recent study, however, as many as 68% of people feel isolated following their diagnosis. Loneliness comes from a sense of disconnect, a feeling which pharmacological treatments, like sedatives, cannot fix. Thankfully, there are other approaches to bettering well being which do not involve drugs. Reminiscence therapy is one such alternative, the purpose of which is not to focus on someone’s dementia, but to connect them to who they are.
Due to developments in technology, we’re seeing an emerging culture of creative professionals using their skills and experience to innovate traditional reminiscence practices. Out of this space, new resources are being born: tools which are easily accessible but designed to last, personalised yet can be treasured by the family for generations to come, and are for the carers as much as for those with dementia themselves.
A case study: My Life Films
One example is a young London-based charity called My Life Films, who are lending a new lease of life to reminiscence therapy by pairing traditional techniques such as conversation, photo prompts and music with professional film production. Their end product is a personalised biographical film, transforming those with dementia into ‘stars’, completely for free.
‘It significantly changed her outlook and her life’ Mr Williams on his mother Jo’s life story film.
As you can see in the clip above, My Life Films are committed to bringing joy and positivity back into the lives of those affected by dementia. The films aim to create a greater sense of connectedness in the following areas:
Having a My Life Film is about much more than the enjoyment of re-living memories on screen. The whole filmmaking process is catered towards transforming self-esteem: from the practicality of jogging memories to the positive emotional benefits, the six to eight week project is an opportunity for someone with dementia to feel useful again. Sharing fond anecdotes and stories helps them to reclaim their sense of self back from their illness, and to feel empowered with a newfound purpose.
Family and community
Being part of a My Life Film doesn’t just encourage a greater sense of connection to one’s own personal identity, but a deeper feeling of togetherness with others. Collecting materials and partaking in interviews are opportunities for relatives to be actively involved in caring for their loved one, whilst film premieres and regular viewings are fun activities to engage those with dementia in quality time with neighbours and friends.
Music can play a transformative role in managing dementia symptoms. With a My Life Film, the soundtrack is a personalised therapy chosen by the star based on their favourite songs. Carers can look to these familiar sounds to soothe situations of distress, transporting the star to another era and re-igniting their spark of feeling alive.
The My Life package also includes a short synopsis of the film. This five-minute version is designed to help care workers build a more personal relationship with their patients by providing vital information in an instant and visual way. This resource helps care workers to understand the ‘why’ behind any behaviour that can be challenging, and even brings to the fore any mutual interests they might have. The care worker has the context needed to relate in a more genuine way, creating the foundations for better communication.
This post was written by My Life Films. Find out more about My Life Films and how you can get a free film package for yourself or your loved one with dementia by visiting their website, www.mylifefilms.org.