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.