Dementia Short Story Books
If you are looking for short stories for people with Dementia then look no further. I am writing a series of books designed for adults with memory loss, concentration issues and anxiety. Presented in a visually appealing format for easy comprehension, these books will keep your loved one engaged and boost their self-esteem, whilst respecting their dignity.
For individuals experiencing memory loss, reading becomes increasingly challenging over time. What was once an enjoyable pastime can quickly become an exasperating source of frustration. They may be able to retain the ability to read, but they lose focus easily or become easily fatigued because of the effort required to follow intricate stories. This is why I have created accessible alternative options for book enthusiasts who are experiencing reading issues.
These books seem like ‘normal’ adult books as there is no mention of potentially triggering or upsetting words (e.g. Dementia, Alzheimers, seniors, disability, disease etc.) anywhere on the cover or in the text of the story. I have carefully formatted each book so adults with cognitive decline are not aware that their book is different, and therefore do not feel insulted. It is incredibly important for those with memory issues to read books which make them feel successful and help build their self esteem.
The ability to read is not completely lost as Alzheimer’s disease develops, but it can become challenging for many people. This can be very difficult and upsetting for those who have been avid book lovers their whole lives. It’s at this stage when adjustments need to happen - either more suitable books are found so reading can still be enjoyed independently, or it might be more relaxing for your loved one if you read to them.
Keeping Dignity with Dementia
Many people suffering from Dementia have enjoyed reading throughout their whole lives, yet they now find it a struggle to manage ‘normal’ adult books. The text is too small, the books are too long, and the complex plot lines and numerous characters can be overwhelming. They require more appropriate and appealing books to suit their capabilities.
It can be very demeaning to give an adult a children’s book, even if it is done so with kind intentions. A child’s book generally lacks relevance for many elders. And it may be upsetting and offensive to people if their book is labelled as being for seniors with Dementia. This can be incredibly damaging to a person’s self-esteem, especially if they are unwilling to acknowledge they are having memory issues.
Which is why I have written a range of easy-to-read stories which are accessible for Dementia patients. I want people to be able to enjoy the pleasure of reading again, with dignity and pride.
Reading is one of the most rewarding activities during any phase of life. Language and literacy are a key factor in the quality of our human experience, used as a form of learning, enjoyment and mental stimulation.
Helping your loved one to maintain their cognitive functions is so important, and finding activities for them to enjoy independently can be a challenge as the disease progresses. Although there is very little can be done to stop the progression of Dementia, there are many ways to help maximise the quality of life of people with the condition. Finding enjoyable and manageable activities can help to stimulate attention, perception, communication, and boost self-esteem.
The storylines in my books are simple yet engaging, with lots of positive and sensory descriptions. The text is well spaced, so looking at the page isn’t overwhelming, and the Arial font is a large 18x size, to help people with poor eyesight or vision issues.
I have used short paragraphs throughout and 2-3 vivid colour photographs with each chapter, to give visual clues without causing distraction. Research has found that images and photographs help people with Dementia to access memories.
Each book is around 4,000 words long, and the story begins on the very first page of the book, so readers aren’t confused by any copyright/publishing etc. pages which are usually at the start of novels.
Measuring 6x9 inches, the books are soft, lightweight and comfortable to hold, perfect for seniors who find it difficult to hold a large heavy book. The language used is simple, yet not childlike/demeaning.
Easy To Read Books
The short stories in this series are all uplifting and designed to evoke happy memories with the reader. I want to bring back the joy of reading for people with Dementia. The pleasure and satisfaction of being able to read and finish a book is such a boost to a person’s mood, self-esteem and confidence - things which begin to lack over time as the disease progresses.
The books in this series are either written in the first person narrative, so they can be relatable to any gender or age, or they feature an adult main character, so the reader can engage with the storyline.
Each book focuses on the delight and joyful aspects of life. I use lots of sensory descriptions to try to help the reader better imagine the scene described. There are no gloomy or negative passages which could potentially upset or confuse the reader. Each book is designed and formatted to be engaging and to provide a literary escape for people.
Enjoying Reading With Dementia
There are various ways to make reading an easier and more enjoyable activity for your loved one, for example:
- You can sit with them as they read the book out loud, so it becomes a shared activity and a chance to reconnect and bond over something together. You can either listen to them read, take turns in reading, or you can read the book to them if they’re unable to.
- Help your loved one to hold the book and turn the pages - only do this if required though. Allowing your loved one to control the pace for reading/engagement/reminiscing can give them more confidence with the activity.
- Placing a cushion/pillow on their lap to rest the book can also help to make the reading experience more comfortable.
- Ask questions or make comments about the story/pictures as you go along. Ask questions which are easy to answer, such as “Which is your favourite?” and avoid asking questions which require specific/factual answers. If they seem to particularly respond to a picture/phrase, ask them if it reminds them of a story/memory.
- Leave their books in an accessible place so they can read them on their own if they wish to.
- Read in a quiet area, with no distractions. Make sure the room is well-lit, with no shadows or reflections cast on the pages.
Reading Material Ideas
Pick reading material that caters to the personal taste of your loved one with Dementia. Not everybody is interested in books. Somebody may favour magazines or or comic books. Here’s a list of ideas:
- Play scripts
- Newspapers - focus on the sections that your loved one prefers, for example the Sports pages
- Historical tales
- Religious reading material
- TV guide - you can browse for ideas of programmes to watch together
- Recipes - you can cook something whilst following the recipe together
- Short stories
- Personal letters or cards from birthdays, wedding etc.
- Magazines based on their personal interests - fishing, space, gardening etc.
- Shopping catalogues or travel brochures
- Biographies of their favourite celebrities/historical figures
The Benefits of Reading with Dementia
Studies have shown that listening to music is extremely beneficial for people with Dementia. It has a very calming and soothing effect, and it brings back happy memories for them. And the same is true of reading. Memories can be rediscovered because of the emotions experienced through reading.
The act of reading can boost the mood, improve brain health and prompt conversation. Being able to enjoy reading a book again brings feelings of self-empowerment, hope and dignity. It restores a sense of self, improving focus and clarity.
It can be a very enjoyable activity to read together, or as a group in a relaxed setting. By taking turns to read, this sets up a conversational dynamic between people, as everybody is engaged, participating and contributing, without the pressure of trying to think of something to say. It increases the sense of shared solidarity too, as opinions on the story and memories are shared during breaks in reading.
The Benefits of Reading-Aloud to Someone with Alzheimer's Disease
If a person has loved to read all their lives, but no longer can, listening to someone read to them can bring profound comfort and joy. It is important to adapt to the person’s ever-changing needs as their condition develops.
For lifelong bookworms, the attraction to literature never grows old, but there are many reasons why the elderly may stop reading over time. Common barriers include lack of strength to hold a book, poor vision, hand tremors, and difficulty following intricate plots and detailed storylines due to the cognitive decline caused by Dementia.
Giving up the habit of reading doesn’t necessarily indicate a loss of interest in books/newspapers/magazines etc. On the contrary, the inability to read often leaves people feeling sad, withdrawn and isolated.
Reading to a loved one, or reading to a group, can have a dramatically positive effect on the quality of ones life and well-being. Memories can be stimulated through discussion, and mood and concentration can improve. The act of sharing this activity with a Dementia patient has a huge impact on their overall happiness because their social interaction tends to decline as the disease progresses.
Reading books/newspapers etc. to each other is also a great activity idea for families who sometimes struggle for topics of conversation when visiting loved ones. It is an intimate shared activity that helps to pass the time and bring people closer together.
Facts about Dementia
Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of symptoms caused by damage to the brain. Alzheimer’s is a type of Dementia. There are over 200 subtypes of Dementia. In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common are: Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia and Mixed Dementia.
Dementia is a brain disease which progressively worsens over time. It impacts memory, communication and thinking skills, and in the later stages of the disease, physical bodily functions. Other common symptoms include vision issues or spatial awareness, impaired judgement (or lacking the capacity to make decisions), and disorientation/delirium/confusion.
Naturally, when a person begins to experience these changes in themselves it can cause great stress and anxiety. Often, a diagnosis can take years because people try to hide and disguise their symptoms to others. Also, acknowledging that they are beginning to have memory issues, and seeking help, can be incredibly hard and upsetting for many people to do.
Most people begin to show first symptoms of Dementia in their late sixties/seventies. But increasingly, more people are beginning to develop symptoms before the age of 65 - this is known as early-onset Dementia.
At the time of writing, more than 55 million people worldwide have Dementia according to the World Health Organisation, with 10 million new cases being diagnosed each year.
It is unknown what causes Dementia, and there is currently no cure. Drugs have been developed to help slow the progression of the disease, but they do not eliminate it. Most of what we know about Dementia has been discovered over the past 20 years.
Writing Short Stories for Dementia Patients
It is my goal and passion to help rekindle the love of books for people with Alzheimer’s. If there is a topic/genre that you would like to see in my book series then please get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you have any feedback for me, I will gladly take that on board - I want to make these books as easy and accessible as possible.
I hope these books can provide quality time for families living with Dementia and bring happiness.
I am well aware from first hand experience the impact that living with Dementia can have on a person and their family. If you are in a similar position and reading this, I send you my best wishes, support and love.