Storytelling Adds New Dimension to Alzheimer’s Therapy

July 10, 2012

Family caregivers know how frustrating it can be for an Alzheimer’s patient to attempt to recall specific words and details when recounting an event.  An increasing number of home care specialists are combating this frustration with

Seniors Improvise Stories for Dementia Therapy

Improvisation storytelling is an emerging therapy for dementia patients

improvisational storytelling.  The popular activity adds another tool to the caregiver’s toolbox.  A tool that can help combat the struggles of a caregiver.  Storytelling is an emerging tool in innovative senior care that offers a fun approach to care for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Many seniors regularly carry on conversations at the local café with fellow coffee pundits or chat with friends at the beauty shop.  Sound familiar?  A growing number of home care specialists think so.  That’s why improvisational storytelling is a popular activity for senior caregiver services.  It provides an uplifting way for dementia patients to converse more frequently with loved ones and friends.  Most of all, anyone can do it!

Unleash your imagination!

Although the weekly gossip or fashionable hearsay tends to invite a good dose of scrutiny, improvisational storytelling for dementia patients is all about freedom of expression.  It’s a low-stress and therapeutic exercise to help dementia sufferers (especially in communicative patients) engage with people and their environment.  Since participants are encouraged to “make it up as you go,” they can explore and invent stories without the anxiety of recalling their own past.

A work in progress…

Developed by the Timeslips organization, storytelling works by presenting an interesting picture to an individual or group, and posing the question, “What’s going on here?”  The story that follows often ranges from comical intrigue to sentimental insights.  It is a lighthearted and amusing exercise where everyone is free to contribute.  The key to success is that there is no pressure to remember – no anxiety about being wrong.

You can’t be wrong in storytelling.

Improvisational storytelling replaces the pressure to remember with the encouragement to imagine.  Symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often compounded by the uncertainty of social roles and personal identity.  A loved one may not always recall his or her role as father, mother, wife, or son. However, the role of storyteller provides a platform to communicate amongst friends while identifying with external characters and settings, rather than personal narratives and recollections.

As storytellers, dementia sufferers can once again take ownership of roles and identities.  This builds the confidence to interact with friends and loved ones. That’s a story worth telling!

Home Instead Caregivers are always happy to encourage storytelling with your loved one.  For more ideas and information, visit

Do you know how to coax your loved one into colorful storytelling?  Share your tips with our readers!

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One Response to Storytelling Adds New Dimension to Alzheimer’s Therapy

  1. avatar janet Vucinich says:

    I was an English teacher, over the years working with diverse ages and populations. My interest has always been personal narrative and storytelling. Now that I have retired from teaching, I would like to continue to facilitate situations where people create and share stories. Any suggestions on how to go about this? Is there a program in Houston?

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