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Deerfield taking part in TimeSlips Creative Storytelling program

Deerfield Housing Director Jackie Waalen takes a group of residents through a TimeSlips Creative Storytelling session by having the residents come up with stories about a photo they are looking at. (Submitted photo)

New Richmond

Last September, the Deerfield applied to be one of 50 nursing homes/care centers throughout the state of Wisconsin to take part in the TimeSlips Creative Storytelling program, which is being spearheaded by Anne Basting to improve older adults' quality of life and change the perceptions related to aging and dementia.

"The program involves reflective story sharing that is designed to bring out creative ideas for people with dementia," said Deerfield Housing Director Jackie Waalen. "The thing you have to remember is that these residents are still capable of learning and sharing and growing, even with their memory loss. So, it has been a powerful impact to our residents and for our staff to find an innovative idea."

According to Waalen, the two staff members take a group of five or so residents and give them a picture — which can be of anything from a baby laughing to a band playing on a stage — and then start to ask the residents about what they think is going on in the photo in order to make a story that can then be read back to the residents.

"So everyone can say whatever they want since there are no rules for the story and there is no wrong answer either," Waalen said. "That makes the residents feel empowered by creating their story on this fun photo they might have."

Sessions are around 30 to 45 minutes long, with one staff member writing down the residents' ideas on the clipboard while the other prompts the residents with questions about the photo. Waalen said the staff looks to avoid asking yes or no questions to make sure they are getting the most creative answers possible from the residents, as well as keeping the residents engaged throughout the whole session.

"When they see their statements up on the board, they start giggling and laughing and that makes it an engaging opportunity for them," Waalen said. "It is really fun for the residents to see their names in the story as well....And we take anything. One of the stories was called 'I've got a stomach ache.' I'm not sure where that came from but that was what they came up with. We are not going to say no and tell them to come up with a different title. We want to empower them to feel creative and recognized and make it a positive experience for them."

The residents' answers are then put together into a story that also includes the names of the residents who helped create it. The residents also come up with names for their stories, which can be just as creative as the stories themselves.

"I think that the program brings on a feeling of camaraderie with the residents working together to come up with these stories," Waalen said. "Their facial expressions and non-verbals are positive during the sessions. And again, the affirmation that they did something instead of feeling that sense of loss always is a big thing for them."

In addition to taking part in the TimeSlips program, Waalen said she is also taking part in a research study that is looking at how programs like TimeSlips affect the lives of the residents who take part in it.

"Aside from being picked as one of the 50 care centers to take part in this program, I am part of a research study that is doing a neuropsychiatric inventory questionnaire and the Alzheimer's disease-related quality of life assessment," Waalen said. "So they are wanting to see if some of these types of programs are able to improve the quality of life, reduce the challenging behaviors, increase the involvement of the families and friends that are coming in."

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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