Using ICT in activities for people with dementia

ICTs in reminiscence and life story activities

Reminiscence is a common activity with people with dementia. It involves the discussion of past activities, events and experiences, often using photographs and music as prompts. It can be done individually or in groups. In either case, ICTs are an invaluable resource as you can search for and access virtually all types of media instantly. Life story work involves getting to know someone’s past, present and future wishes, often to create a permanent record or lifebook. Once again, ICTs open up a world of possibilities for creating life books.

ICTs in group reminiscence

Being able to access the internet during a group reminiscence session means you can:

ICT in action: YouTube serves up music from many cultures

Sergio, who is from Chile, found it difficult to join in with the general reminiscence discussions at the day centre. Staff found it hard to get him to talk about his background. One day, a member of staff was searching the internet to find music for people to sing. She asked Sergio if he had any requests and he mentioned a name she did not recognise. A search in YouTube revealed a famous Spanish opera singer. Other people at the day centre enjoyed the music, and Sergio began to talk a little about his past.

Basic kit for reminiscence activities

  • Access to the internet to search for photos or other resources
  • A laptop or tablet computer is OK for one-to-one sessions
  • For small group sessions, use a desktop computer and a large screen
  • For larger groups, you need to connect the computer to a projector or to a large screen TV for comfortable viewing
  • For group sessions, consider using plug-in speakers, so that the sound quality is better
Hints and tips for group reminiscence activities

It’s the process that matters – don’t get over-focused on the life story book as a 'finished product'.

ICTs for individual life story work

Life story work is increasingly recognised as an important part of person-centred dementia care. It’s a tool to get to know someone, and the better you know someone, the better their relationships with staff, family and carers can be. On a practical level, a record of experiences, likes and dislikes is very useful when someone is moving between environments such as respite, day or residential care. The advantage of a digital record is that it can be amended and copies of text and images can be printed whenever needed.

ICTs can contribute to the process of creating life stories at many levels:

Uncovering someone’s life story will take a number of one-to-one sessions and you will almost certainly involve their family in giving information and providing materials such as photographs.

Basic kit for individual life story work

  • A desktop computer, laptop or tablet
  • Access to the internet to search for photos or other resources
  • A scanner if you want to scan in photos or documents
  • A digital camera if you want to take new photos
  • A printer
  • You can use word processing software (e.g. Microsoft Word) for life story books with an emphasis on text. Presentation software (e.g. Microsoft Powerpoint) is better if you want to use a lot of images or music and video. Free versions of these types of software are available from Libre Office.
  • There are some commercial life story templates available – they can be useful but they are not a necessity. It is always worth trying the software you already have on your machine before buying a specialised application.
Hints and tips for individual life story work