Story of my life - Dementia therapy study at Brindabilla published

OUR dedication to improving the lives of individuals living with dementia through memoir has been
taken even further with an exciting workshop-based progam at Baptcare’s Brindabilla Day centre.

Baptcare Diversional Therapist Paula Bain and La Trobe University Emeritus Professor of English, Richard Freadman FAHA recently published an article on their pilot project in a special edition of the eminent journal,

‘Life Writing’.

“I first met Richard three years ago at a lecture he gave on the uses of memoir in health care settings and we both realised we were interested in exploring life writing in dementia care,” Paula said.

“We were both very grateful to Baptcare for collaborating with us and supporting us in developing our own innovative program.”

According to Professor Freadman, some elements of the Brindabilla Biography program differ from the more traditional methods of memoir writing in aged care and leave it open to further developments and study.

“Our method is based on the creative writing workshop model that has an excellent record in university teaching,” Professor Freadman said.

“We encourage participants to write about their own lives in their own handwriting; then have guided group discussion looking both at content and methods of story-telling.

“Through this we compiled our special Baptcare publication You Won’t Believe It! Baptcare Clients Tell Their Stories.

“There is also scope for researchers in other fields to build on what we’ve done with solid evaluations of mood patterns and morale to assess the relationship between depression and dementia. Cognitive function testing could be used to examine if there is an actual slowing of cognitive decline or whether this is related to mood and well-being.”

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THE moment you are born, your life story begins unfolding – and as you age, recounting your personal journey can be a grateful reflection on a life well lived.

To combat the grief, loneliness, failing health and memory loss faced by many older people, a new movement to record seniors’ stories is gaining popularity. At Baptcare’s Orana Day Centre, long-term client Dot McHugh is enjoying telling her tales to dedicated volunteer Greg McCulloch.

“I’m really starting to feel as if I’m rather an important person,” Dot said. “I’ve been very lucky, I’ve lived a fairy tale life and it’s been wonderful to look back on—I had a great childhood and I loved my job as a teacher.”

“I lost my husband ten years ago, I’ve always talked about him to keep him with me and now it’s written down for my grandchildren to see.”

Greg McCulloch has worked in the social care sector all his life and believes as people age, it’s important to know they have a voice and how they’ve lived has value.

“I really look forward to our sessions and getting Dot to focus on the happy times in her life,” Greg said.

“I’m a bit older, and I’ve done a lot of reminiscing with individuals living with dementia. I feel it’s important to make care more meaningful. Dedicating time to really communicate with someone whose sight is failing and who perhaps has hearing impairments is vital.”

“It’s been a treat getting to know Dot, to learning about times gone by, the history of the local area and learning what a kind, caring and feisty lady she is.”