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Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health

Storytelling Program Encourages Imagination, Improves Lives of People with Alzheimer’s

TimeSlips, drug-free, creative storytelling intervention, improves communication skills in dementia patients, says UM study - see video

A graphic used in the TimeSlips program - see video belowFeb. 27, 2011 – An estimated 5.3 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease, including 5.1 million senior citizens aged 65 or older. Fourteen percent of those aged 71 or older suffer with AD or other mind-erasing dementias, which rarely can be reversed. A glimmer of hope is being found in a creative storytelling program, TimeSlips, that seems to improve communications skills and has other positive affects on dementia patients.

Dementia symptoms include a loss of brain function that affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior. Many patients have difficulty walking and talking. Anti-dementia drugs have been inconsistent in treating these symptoms.


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Now, University of Missouri researchers confirm that participation in TimeSlips, a drug-free, creative storytelling intervention is making a difference.

TimeSlips is a nationally recognized storytelling program for people with dementia that encourages participants to use their imaginations to create short stories as a group. Rather than relying on factual recall, participants respond verbally to humorous images presented by facilitators who record the responses and read narratives to further develop or end the stories

“TimeSlips provides rich, engaging opportunities for persons with dementia to interact with others while exercising their individual strengths,” said Lorraine Phillips, assistant professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing and John A. Hartford Foundation Claire M. Fagin Fellow.

What Is TimeSlips? from 371 Productions on Vimeo.

The TimeSlips Project aims to:

   ● inspire people with dementia to hone and share the gifts of their imaginations;

   ● inspire others to see beyond the loss and to recognize the strengths of people with dementia;

   ● improve the quality of life of people with dementia and those who care for them.

To achieve these goals, the TimeSlips Project:

   ● offers trainings to certify facilitators in the TimeSlips method;

   ● works to build the field of creative expression in dementia care by fostering research and partnerships between artists and professional organizations.

   ● acts as a resource for those dedicated to changing the way we approach dementia care.

>> More at

“It encourages participants to be actively involved and to experience moments of recognition, creation and celebration. Meaningful activities, such as TimeSlips, promote positive social environments that are central to person-centered care.”

The storytelling program is an easy and affordable activity for long-term care facilities to implement and allows caregivers to interact with multiple residents at a time, Phillips said.

“TimeSlips offers a stimulating alternative to typical activities in long-term care facilities,” Phillips said.

“It is an effective and simple option for care providers, especially those who lack resources or skills required for art, music or other creative interventions.”

In the study, Phillips and her colleagues delivered the TimeSlips intervention in one-hour sessions, held twice weekly for six consecutive weeks. The results included increased expressions of pleasure and initiation of social communication. Improvements in participants’ affect lasted several weeks following the final session. The intervention is acceptable for people with mild to moderate dementia, Phillips said.

Phillips worked with Stephanie Reid-Arndt, assistant professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions, and Youngju Pak, assistant professor of health management and informatics in the School of Medicine. The study, “Effects of a Creative Expression Intervention on Emotions, Communication, and Quality of Life in Persons with Dementia” was published in Nursing Research.

>> More about Alzheimer’s disease

>> More about TimeSlips

>> More about Lorraine Phillips, assistant professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing

>> Alzheimer’s Association

>> Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures 2010, Alzheimer’s Association


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