National Storytelling Week – Using Stories to Enrich Social Care

National Storytelling Week

‘Telling Stories – All About Me’

by Gillian Hesketh MA

Happy Days Dementia Workshop & Nostalgic Design

As National Storytelling Week heads into it’s 14th year, many care homes, day centres and community groups around the UK will become part of the celebration; prompting, sharing and enjoying stories.

Thousands of years before the World Wide Web, mobile phones and television, oral story telling was very much ‘on trend.’ It was the way knowledge, customs and social history were passed on from generation to generation. It brought enlightenment from travels, drove culture and bound communities and families together with traditions and entertainment.

Story telling is all around us. Remember story time at school? – Sitting on the carpet, captivated by the teacher’s tales? Can you remember being absorbed into the story, those comforting and sometimes uplifting feelings? And what about the latest gossip in the corner shop or the hairdressers – someone telling a joke, discussing football scores or bringing up the news headlines during a tea-break at work?

Storytelling can be part of person centred care provision, enjoyed either at home or at day centres, dementia cafes, community centres, hospitals and rehabilitation or residential care and dementia homes – in groups or one-to-one, with activity coordinators, carers and families.

So what better than to use storytelling as a tool to engage with elderly or people living with dementia. Of all the activities for people living with dementia, storytelling is one of the most powerful and effective. Studies have shown that storytelling can help to improve mood, calm agitations and prompt the long term memory.

So how do we do this?

The Happy Days approach isn’t really about everyone sitting and listening to someone read a story [even though this may be quite enjoyable for some people], it’s more about sharing experiences, events and information. Dementia Workshop’s range of reminiscence resources, chat cards, nostalgic and tactile items can prompt the long term memory, stimulate reminiscence and help a person tell their life’s stories in their own way.

Arthur Frank in ‘Letting Stories Breathe’ [2010] states ‘… human life depends on the stories we tell: the sense of self that those stories impart, the relationships constructed around shared stories, and the sense of purpose that stories propose  …’

A person living with dementia may be unable to recall events, experiences and stories unaided. Gillian Hesketh of Happy Days Dementia Workshop has come up with a unique collection of Memory Joggers to prompt people’s stories: All About Me© [ideal for care homes], Past-Present-Future© [ideal for home care] and Personal Memory Jogger © [ideal for families]. Carefully designed response pages with related topics and themed images help care teams and families gain further insight into a person’s social history.

To care for a person, you need to really know the person. Knowing a person’s stories, interests, likes and dislikes and having this information at hand can help carers build positive relationships and ensure that a person’s social care is enriched and fulfilled on a day to day basis.

The Memory Jogger range has been designed with life’s key headings to prompt reminiscence. The themed and colourful response pages follow through life and make it easy and enjoyable for a person, sometimes with family or carer assistance, to record and share life’s events. Recollections photographs or tickets from special occasions from the person’s home life, working roles, hobbies, travel, special moments, family, friends and more, can be gathered at any time and added to the Memory Jogger to create a beautiful reference resource, a wealth of knowledge for carers and a lovely keepsake.


Each page title covers a separate topic. Some examples:  All About Me – Family & Friends – Memory Lane – School Days – Places I’ve Visited – Favourite Television Programmes …

‘Top Tip’ from Gillian …

Don’t hide a person’s Memory Jogger away in the office filing cabinet or a living room sideboard. Check with the person and ideally, make it available on view in the person’s room, or on a bedside table so that families, carers and activity coordinators can add information, use the stories to benefit the person or just re-visit the Memory Jogger to reminisce, share and enjoy.

*Personal Memory Jogger

Happy Days Dementia Workshop & Nostalgic Design has also developed a range of themed memory boxes, conversation prompts, daily living resources, meaningful wall art and nostalgic displays to help activity coordinators and carers engage with elderly and people living with dementia in residential, rehabilitation, hospitals and home-care and companionship services.

To see the Happy Days Dementia Workshop range of memory prompt products or to purchase Memory Joggers – Shop online at:

Contact Gillian anytime for further information or catalogue at:

Gillian Hesketh MA

Happy Days Dementia Workshop & Nostalgic Design