TimeSlips: More than Storytelling

By now you have read two TimeSlips stories, but I have mentioned little about what it is and how it is used. TimeSlips, as described by their website, states, “TimeSlips offers an elegantly simple revolution in elder care by infusing creativity into care relationships and systems…TimeSlips provides hope and improves well-being through creativity and meaningful connection.” I have experienced this as a Certified TimeSlips Facilitator. It is by far, one of the most successful and impactful programs I have used in every setting of dementia care.

TimeSlips started in Milwaukee, WI in 1998 by Anne Basting, and has since reached 42 states and 12 countries. It is lead by Certified TimeSlips Facilitators but is also something that family members can lead by using the Creativity Journal. This method is backed by research. Information on that research can be found on their website.

In a very simple way, TimeSlips is a method of creating stories using an image as a prompt. These images often have movement in them and are not of anyone, or any place familiar to the storyteller. This can be expanded and adapted in many different ways. I encourage you to read some of the stories shared on the website. These stories can take the storyteller many places and encourage creativity and joy. Individuals with dementia, often communicate through storytelling and using TimeSlips becomes another form of that communication. It is a way for them to share their lives, and to give to those willing to listen. When I am working with a group or individual to create a story I open it up to all kinds of prompts. Sometimes these prompts may be music, artwork, different smells, sounds, videos, and of course, photos. I make sure there is movement, and at first, does not show their home, or faces of family, friends, or themselves  (I may introduce these elements later, depending on the direction we are taking and the person I am working with at the time). I start by asking a question, “What do you think of this image, dance, smell, sound?” With this single question, a story will blossom, through my asking of other questions and our conversation, the story will grow. By the time 20-30 minutes are up we have a short story that we may expand on week after week, turn into a play, a book, a new art piece, or leave it as a short story. We can share it with others, or keep it to ourselves.

As we are creating the story I mostly ask questions, but at moments I will fill in my own answers. I want this to be their story, but I also want this to be our story. When my job, our job as caregivers, is to become relational with the individual, it is important that we develop ground we can share. They have full input into how each story moves forward, and what we do with the story upon completion. One thing that I always do for the individual or group is to create a book after we have told about 10 stories. I will hand make a book using their stories and ideas as to how the book will look. They are the editors, I am the compiler. With each book, I also create an e-Book and audiobook. This can be done by simply scanning the pages of the book and exporting them into a PDF. Having an e-Book means that all will have access to reading the stories. It allows them to blow it up on a computer or mobile device (yes, many people I work with have iPads, iPhones, or other forms of technology). This PDF from can be easily read. I create the audiobook for the same reason, with an iPad and the GarageBand app (the simplest way to do this), we record the stories, create an intro and a closing, link everything together, and maybe we can add music, different voices, or I can become the voice for the stories. I often do this in short pieces as we go along, playing back the story for them at the conclusion of each time spent together.

The great beauty of this process is that through telling a story, even an imaginative story, our reality seeps into the lines and paragraphs. I have yet to have an experience where upon completion of the story, I don’t learn that a part of the story was something the individual experienced or still experiences. Through these stories, I learn about battles from WWII, farm life in Ohio, what is might be like to lose a child and a husband in one day, about what summers smelled like in Texas in the 1950s, about what it was like to ride on the wings of an airplane, or to be a teacher in rural Wisconsin. I learn about the people that impacted the person’s life, and what they loved about their life, and even about their regrets. This is information I would not have discovered outside of this method. Even with dementia, they can share their life with another. It is beautiful. It is sad. But, aside from the details of the story, it is always joyful, and specifically for me, always informative.

Timeslips is a storytelling method, but it is also a way for us to give to each other, listen to one another, and bring a meaningful moment to another person’s day, week, month, year. It connects people. It is intergenerational. It is creativity at it’s best and highest awe inspiriting moments.



To learn more about TimeSlips, or to become a Certified TimeSlips Facilitator click on the links attached.

Sunday’s Story – EAA

A TimeSlips Story shared with permission.





EAA many years ago Allie Margaret and her pet monkey Almond attended EAA. She was scheduled to fly on the wings of the plane during the air show. Her plane was navy and gray, her hat purple. We think she was crazy and very brave for going up in the plane the way she did. Allie grew up a daredevil. She came from a farm in New London, WI and sadly was an only child. That is why she now has a pet monkey. She was not afraid of anything. She was not afraid of heights, or planes, or monkeys. The air show went splendidly, and she is looking forward to the next time she can fly on the wings. It was cold flying on that wing, but she doesn’t mind. The air was sweet, and reminders her of life with her Mother and Dad. Allie is only 30 years old. She has lots of life ahead of her.



Sunday’s Story-A Sunny Day, History of a Man, Man is Not Alone

A TimeSlips story shared with permission.


A Sunny Day, History of a Man, Man is Not Alone.

Zero Henry Amos, is going for a walk through the gardens to church, then to the bank to deposit money. He is coming from a nursing home/home out in the county. It is a beautiful, sunny, bright summer Sunday in June. He enjoys walking. He is a little unstable, but independent and able to still go for these walks. He’s an outdoorsman. Overall Zero is a happy, cheerful man who doesn’t act old, but although he is having a good day is a little grumpy right now. He is 50, or 65, or 30. We can’t tell. He is wearing a black hat, gray cardigan, and navy pants.
He doesn’t see the butterfly behind him. He has walked past it so many times it doesn’t register with him that it is there. What a shame! The artist of the butterfly is unknown, but we can tell it was done by a professional, self-taught artist who loves to paint on walls. We wonder if the scale of this butterfly has something to tell us. It sure is beautiful with its yellow, red, blue, green, and purple colors. Sad the man no longer sees it. He lived a good life. Never went to jail. A Packer fan. A teacher at a local high school. He was at that one school his entire career teaching Science, History, and PhyEd. His hobbies include agriculture, hunting, and bowling. He loves Friday Fish and chicken. Did we mention he loves agriculture and he studied at Texas A&M? His whole family loves the outdoors. I wonder if he is thinking of them now. His wife is no longer living, but the rest of his family lives in town. His brothers and sisters. His 4 children. He is a good grandpa. For him, the family is the most important thing. I wonder if he would like a second wife.

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