Life Story Books: A Reminiscence Activity for Persons with Early Dementia and their Caregivers

Older persons often have a rich past to draw on, and enjoy thinking about their life. A range of reminiscence activities have been implemented for older persons – including people with dementia. The use of reminiscence activities in dementia is based on the idea that maintaining a core set of significant personal memories is crucial for maintaining a sense of one’s self, despite cognitive impairment. The current study compares reactions to a remote (i.e., phone and online) guided reminiscence activity with a waitlist control condition in persons with early-stage dementia. With this study, we work with individuals and their caregivers, aiming to help individuals maintain a sense of ‘being themselves’ despite dementia. A benefit of this project during Covid-19, with its resultant social isolation, is that it is conducted completely remotely, that is, delivered by telephone and online. It thereby provides an engaging, interesting contact-less activity for people with dementia and their caregivers to meaningful connect while at home.

People with early/mild dementia and a family/friend caregiver are being recruited for participation. Participants will engage in a guided reminiscence activity over the phone, with a trained research assistant, to gather stories to be used in creating their personalized digital Life Story Book. Memories will be elicited based on robust empirical findings from the autobiographical memory literature. The participants will be carefully guided to help them identify five central self-defining memories from their life  that are positive and highly vivid, include sensory cues, and focus on earlier life periods. The research assistant will also work with the caregiver to collect photos and music ideas, adding this content to enrich and further personalize the book. We will then create the book, and when complete, send it to the participants in an online link.

In terms of the research aspect, for all participants with dementia and their caregivers, regardless of condition, there will be four study sessions. These will all be conducted by phone by a trained research assistant. During these sessions, participants will be asked to guided to complete several electronic questionnaires.​ For research purposes there will be a wait-list control group who will complete study measures first, before receiving their book.

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