Saturday, December 19, 2015

Delighting Persons with Dementia with TimeSlips Storytelling

If there was an activity that you could offer your loved one or offer a client with dementia that would bring them delight and potentially improve their mood, would you do it?  

I am glad you said “Yes!” because there is such an activity if you are ready to learn the process, prepare for the activity, and have some fun.  It is called TimeSlips (TS) and was created by Professor of Theatre, Anne Basting at the Peck School of the Arts, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1998.
In full disclosure, I am a bit biased as the first and now 1 of 2 Certified TimeSlips facilitators in my state of Louisiana (LA). I think we need 25, then 50, then 100 facilitators here even if that means less TS freelance opportunities for me. I will not possibly keep up with the demand when residences and facilities catch on to this. So, I encourage others to join our ranks - family members, volunteers, and professionals alike.

To see the TimeSlips Storytelling activity in your mind, imagine a room (free of distractions) with 6-12 persons with a dementia - varying ages and varying levels of cognition. The “storytellers” are seated in a half circle with a facilitator at the front of them, equipped with a white flipchart pad on easel and some markers.  Everyone has a nametag sticker on.  To start the session I distribute a picture printed on 8.5 x 11 paper (cardstock when possible) to each storyteller.  The Leaping Cowboy in this post is an example of a picture I use. I simply explain that we are going to create a story based on the picture. “I will ask you some questions and write down all of your answers with names of the contributor.  There are no wrong answers :) Let’s have fun.” For the next 20 minutes, the storytellers are engaged. They are laughing. They are joking.  They are happy.  In the end we have the flipchart page filled with a story that they are proud of.   As facilitator, I have put them in charge in creating something special.  After 1 or 2 stories, I shake each storyteller's hand and thank them for their input.  The smiles and reciprocated thank you’s are gold for a facilitator. 

You can enjoy my fun stories from my storytellers here.

Why does TimeSlips have this delightful effect on these groups that are so diverse, but who also have much in common? As the the TimeSlips staff will tell you, the activity does several things:
  • Presents a fun challenge
  • Returns a role back to people who have had so many roles taken away by dementia and then by society
  • Strengthens the relationships of the storytellers
  • Strengthens the relationships between the storytellers and staff, when the staff see the abilty of the storytellers.
  • The Storytellers are engaged with a purpose and have their ideas validated.

Please check out this 2014 research article in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias on TimeSlips Storytelling. 

Stay tuned to a future post describing my experiences as a Certified TimeSlips Facilitator, including some of the feedback from the Storytellers and Staff. In the meantime, please take action with this information. It is not enough to fill your head with interesting stuff!

Action Items:

  • Watch this TEDx event with founder Anne Basting. 
  • Read the stories that I have facilitated.
  • Hear a 5 interview with facilitator Liz Nichols as she explains TimeSlips.
  • Consider becoming a TimeSlips facilitator to make a difference in your family or in your facility.
  • If you are a staff member, read more about TimeSlips and approach your leaders about becoming Certified Facilitator. Share the research article.  If management somehow says "no," be a leader for change and do it anyway on your time and on your dime.  Introduce it to your residents, invite the leaders, and show them it works. It can have a high impact and is not costly.  
  • If you are a Family member with a loved one in a facility, ask management if they will bring TimeSlips to the residence. If not, ask why.  Be persistent. I hope that one day this is a program that residences can use to demonstrate how dementia-friendly they are. 
Matt Estrade, MBA, CAPS is the Founder and Chief Mentor at Care Partner Mentoring, LLC in Covington/New Orleans, LA, USA. A more extensive biography can be found here.


  1. Matt, Congratulations on joining our TimeSlips Facilitator community, and thanks for this marvelous introduction for care giving families and staff. Very well done! As a fellow freelancer (in Northern CA), I wholeheartedly agree.

  2. Hey Liz, Thanks for the comment, welcome, and encouragement! I hope you are doing well freelancing. I have some webinars to catch up on and understand their are some tips and best practices for freelancers. Feel free to use any info from my blog post to do the same/ promote in Northern CA. Happy New Year! Matt


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