Dementia Testimonials are a collection of memories, stories, photographs and other memorabilia that are completely individual to each person. Recording the life story of someone with dementia, ensures that all those memories are kept alive long after a person loses the ability to be able to recall them. Significant life events whether positive or negative can be noted and recorded and in the future could be used as a reference for both the individual themselves and their families and friends. It’s important to start the process early and return to it often, it’s not something that should be accomplished in one sitting, it will evolve over time and after many different conversations. Creating a dementia testimonial can be a hugely rewarding experience for both the subject and those who may be assisting in the collection of these memories.
Making a start is straightforward, it’s basically about having a conversation. Below you will see some categories that can start the dialogue. You don’t need to cover everything and there may be some things you want to add, there are no rules, do whatever is comfortable and who knows where the conversation may lead.
- Place of birth
- Family both immediate and extended, constructing a family tree is a great start
- Occupations of parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts
- Town where childhood was spent
- Names and details of childhood friends
- Holidays and excursions taken as a child
- Favourite pets and their names
- School life, favourite teachers, subjects, schoolmates
- University, college, apprenticeship
- First job, name of company and colleagues
- Meeting their partner, where and when
- Getting married, memories of the day, where and when
- Having a family, the birth of any children, their significant milestones
- Family holidays, where and when
Remember to date and label photographs wherever possible. Create context by noting stories that relate to any particular photographs on the back of each one, although it is possible to create and store a dementia testimonial digitally at some point this may prove difficult to access for the individual so a “hard copy” approach is probably best. Once you have collected all the items together they can go into a book, folder or a memory box and this can be easily accessed in the days, months and years ahead.