One morning on my way to work I was listening to an NPR story about the storytelling program Timeslips, for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. The piece was so affecting that I had to pull off the road. Having recently lost my father to a debilitating degenerative disease that left him feeling useless and alone, I knew how important it is to feel a sense of value in one’s life. Though the diseases were different, the sense of loss and resultant reactions were amazingly similar. The second I arrived in the office I was on the Internet looking up Timeslips.
As I looked at the website I knew that the TimeSlips method might have helped me in those dark days with my father. I recalled how helpless I felt when I tried to interact with my father on a meaningful level. My Dad had been a perpetual optimist. As he grew sicker he stopped being able to perform the duties he thought of as integral to his former roles of father, husband, artist, mathematician, or even friend. As a sick person he grew frustrated and discouraged by his failing body and he disengaged with life. I could help with assistive technology, an MP3 player with favorite songs, a better wheelchair, or finding more competent nurses. But I never seemed able to assist him in his greatest loss: his sense of purpose. My father is gone but I decided that day in front of my computer screen that I was going to find a way to offer this service to others who are slipping away.
Since listening to that story on the radio I sought, and completed, facilitator training in the method. As a TimeSlips Certified Facilitator, I lead storytelling groups in senior day programs, assist individuals in creating a portfolio to share with loved ones, and build partnerships with intergenerational groups.
To hear the story I heard that morning, click here.