Shortening the Miles with Memories Dementia Care Springfield PA

About.com – Shortening the miles with memories

By Gloria Hoffner BA, ADC, AC-BC, CDP

Grandchildren are a blessing and memories of times spent with grandchildren bring smiles. This is especially true for residents with dementia whose advancing disease is robbing joy from their lives.

Art has proven to also be a wonderful way for residents with dementia to connect with memories and express emotions. Artist Annette Debevec has illustrated a book Pop’s Cookie Duster by authors Don and Lee Doyle, which tells the story of a visit with grandchildren. Through beautiful illustrations and simple language, activity directors and certified therapeutic recreation directors, can use the book for reminiscing discussions and as a spring board for residents to draw photos of their own families.

Don Doyle, co-author, is a retired school teacher who taught for 35 years in the Philadelphia School District. His wife and co-author is Lee Doyle, mother and housewife, who worked for 17 years at a retirement facility in Rosemont, PA.

“We decided to write the book because when we visited our grandchildren we were disappointed with the quality of the books available to read to them. It was the classic ‘We can do better than that”

‘ in telling a story,” Don Doyle said. “The story is simply a narrative of a typical visit with our grandchildren who live 1200 miles away. The activities described in the story are a true recounting of how we spend our time with them.”

Activity directors can use the book as a way to start conversations and remising especially during cooking programs while waiting for the goodies to finish baking. In addition, the book can be used during one-on-one visits to read to residents in later stage dementia or to discuss with residents who are non-cognitively impaired but unable to leave their bedroom.

The book can be used in Reminiscence Therapy. This is a proven way to communicate with people whose dementia has eliminated their ability to express themselves verbally. There are four mediums of reminiscence therapy: visual, music, smell and tactile. This book can be used for the visual act of having residents look at the pictures of grandparents and grandchildren; it can be used in conjunction with smell and taste as residents bake and eat the cookies described in the story and it can assist in the tactile experience when residents take part in mixing ingredients to bake cookies.

In addition, the book and reminiscene therapy can be used for a group intergenerational program with residents with dementia and their family members. The inclusion of relatives and friends can enhance the reminiscence time for all parties. They may be able to provide photos or remember incidents in the person’s life that add to the experience in the book and increase the pleasure and engage a person with dementia.

Annette Debevec, a resident of Media, Pennsylvania, has spent many years as a teacher, both in art and in early childhood. She is the mother of seven children, grandmother of six and has a degree from the University of Dayton in Art Education. In her career she taught art in middle school and elementary school and spent 18 years teaching kindergarten.

“One of my greatest joys is to share a good book with a child. I have been recently widowed and have been spending more time as an artist. I was introduced to the authors of the book through a mutual friend,” Debevec said. “I agreed to illustrate their story, though it was my first attempt at book illustration, partly because I loved their ideas.  Their story tells about their own experiences visiting their two granddaughters who live a thousand miles away from them. They wanted to celebrate and record a beautiful memory about special times spent together.”

“The hardest part of doing the illustration was getting started. I did not have the little girls here with me, just a few photos, so I had to rely on other ways to imagine them in the scenes I wanted to portray. At one point I had my own granddaughters pose for me and I took some photos to use as a reference. Also I had to settle on an artistic approach that would best communicate the sweetness and intimacy of the relationships,” she said.

Seeing the finished book and its impact on families was the best part of the experience, Debevec said. “I am happy with the results and believe it will bring much joy to grandparents, parents, and children.”

The Doyles are also enjoying the book.

“Meeting Annette our artist, completely by happenstance. What a great bit of luck. She had never illustrated a book, and we had never written one, but we all worked together so well in achieving our goal,” Don Doyle said. “Seeing the look on the faces of our granddaughters as we read them the story for the first time: priceless!”

The book can be purchased at: Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com


Contact Information: Don & Lee Doyle  at: cookiedusterbook@gmail.com

popscookieduster.com and contact Annette at: ardebevec1@verizon.net.


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