OHAA National Conference – Retrieving Memories

Remembering Lives:  Strategies for Retrieving Memories and Creating Personal Life Stories. 

1.00 pm 24 September 2013.

Introduction by Alison McDougall
Allison Russell
Pauline Cockrill
Lenore de la Perrelle

Resize of Allison Russell5AAllison Russell – Object handling in health care settings – heritage in hospitals using a variety of objects.  Based on a study of University College in London.  The objects are designed for people to handle as beginnings of conversations.  See http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/research/touch/heritage-in-hospitals.  Success was reliant on staff participating and on the authenticity of the objects.  Connecting with a particular object tapped into their memory.  Aim to find ways of making connections using the objects.  We can still learn with touch.  Touch is a sense that does not fade.  Touching an object is stimulating memory.  House of Memories, Liverpool http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/learning/projects/house-of-memories/ is a training program, England.  Provide memory box on line and memory walk.  We can make museums more accessible for people with dementia e.g. a shop setting display for people visiting will allow them to tell their stories.



Resize of Pauline Cockrill2APauline Cockrill – Reminiscence therapy is “the use of life histories – written, oral or both – to improve psychological well-being … often used with older people” (Dr Gary VandenBos, editor APA Dictionary of Psychology. Washington, DC American Psychological Association).  Handle objects and have chats around the fire.  Have objects for people to handle puts this therapy into practice.  History SA did a project with the Motoring Museum where Morris cars were brought to show dementia patients.  Cars are memory boxes themselves.  They remind people of holidays and other drives so there are lots of memories associated with cars.  Some patients were taken for a ride in an old car.  This was combined with oral history, as there were some good stories related.  After the actual day of the drive people were selected who had good stories. 

These websites show what is being done in England:  Age Exchange – http://www.age-exchange.org.uk/ and Reminiscence Activities at Beamish – http://www.beamish.org.uk/reminiscence/

Pauline showed how to produce a memory box.  It would be ideal to have a museum within an aged care facility.  Helping Hand Aged Care facilities at Parafield Gardens and Jamestown in South Australia now have permanent “museum” displays. 

It is interesting how objects from the past really bring back memories.  At an aged care facility in Adelaide they had an afternoon tea and some of the residents made the scones which they could do automatically.  It brought back for them the smell, feel, taste of when they made them in the past.  They were given a tea canister so they could smell the tea.  They were surprised that a woman who had not spoken before began telling stories

Making and using memory boxes – living memory, audience appeal, ability to source objects.  Pauline and Allison invited us to nominate items that could be included in a Memory Box – included photos, recipe books, shoes, hats, tools, kitchen implements, records, handcrafts, magazines, toys.

Resize of Lenore de la Perrelle1ALenore de la Perrelle – memory for people with dementia.  What makes a good life for an older person or person with dementia?  We need to make the most of the person’s life.  See http://www.ach.org.au/good-lives  What matters – people are not all the same so people with dementia are not all the same.  Many older people want to share their stories.  Most older people enjoy the opportunity to talk.  The longer we live, the more likely we will get dementia.  1 in 4 of those over 85 develop dementia.  Dementia – affects everything in our lives.  100 different diseases can lead to dementia.  

People with dementia have a life of knowledge; given the right opportunity you can access that.  We must provide some emotional support.  It is an opportunity for life review.  Helps people make sense of this part of their life.  We need to adapt our methods to accommodate for cognitive impairment.  Telling their story reinforces their identity.  They can focus on an event or a series of events in their lives.  An oral history can document who this person is, their past abilities.  Outcome can be a photo books – text in large font (e.g. Arial bold).  Ask family to identify any photographs if interviewee is unable to do so.  Do a family tree.  It is important for the family to know some of the stories.  You can then see their identity and personality.  It should be a formal, structured process e.g. if borrowing photos have consent forms signed.  Get the story from the person themselves.  Does not have to be historical fact.  It is allowing them a voice.  Do about six sessions of 45 minutes to an hour.  Family member may have to sign consent if person is unable to.  Stimulate with touch, smell, feel, taste.
Suzanne Mulligan

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