The Importance of Storytelling and Dementia

Vicky Pitner   -  

Most people enjoy telling funny stories, sharing fun adventures, or reminiscing about younger days. We can select our audiences, places to share our stories, and can recall the last time we told the story. However, if someone is living with memory loss, the person is unable to recall which story was told and to whom or even where. Thus, stories are repeated, and sometimes not accurately, because as memories fade, so do the details.

Correcting an insignificant detail when someone living with dementia is proudly ”holding court” and sharing an important and meaningful memory is not only unnecessary, it is inconsiderate and unkind. “Constant correctors” of persons living with memory loss can bring shame and embarrassment to the person and erode trust. It is usually not an intentional motive, so learning to “let go” of the need to make sure the facts are correct takes practice.

People with memory loss may find it difficult to follow conversations, and may revert to telling a favorite story in order to communicate and feel a sense of connectedness and belonging. Sharing these meaningful experiences also gives the person a sense of purpose and helps maintain identity and personhood. Notice how animated and happy the person is each time they repeat a familiar story.

Understanding  the person cannot recall they asked just asked a question or told a story may be a coping mechanism for the person to feel safe and engage with someone.  Reasonable questions require a reasonable and respectful answer every time the question is repeated.

As taxing as repeated stories are, it is so important to listen with a playful heart and enjoy the time together and help the person feel heard and value. You are the keeper of memories now, so cherish every one.

If you would like more information on our Memory Ministry, Memory Cafe, or our Family and Friends workshops, please contact Vicky Pitner at