Line of books aimed at families whose loved ones have dementia


  • <p>HELEN DALTON, PHOTO</p><p>Cover of one of the dementia books, This Is Me.</p>

In the late 19th century, Norwegian playwright Henrick Ibsen, renowned as the father of modernism in theatre, is quoted to have said, "A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed."

Over the years, the sentiment has transitioned. Reportedly, this is in part due to a headline attributed to Frederick R. Barnard, who, in the December, 1921 issue of Printer's Ink, published a piece commending the effectiveness of graphics in advertising with the title "One look is worth a thousand words."

Now, a graphic designer in Blue Rocks, Lunenburg County, is working on an even more up-to-date, empathetic twist to the sentiment as it has transitioned further: "A picture is worth a thousand words."

Helen Dalton is combining her professional skills and personal experiences to offer a service whereby she creates customized books telling the life stories of people with dementia.

"I'm approaching it in that I want to give these people a voice," says Dalton of the dementia books she's now producing, which she calls This Is Me.

"People's life stories have always resonated with me," Dalton told LighthouseNOW. Moreover, she's been "walking alongside dementia" for a few years now. Her mother and grandfather fell victim to the disease that robs people of their memories and communication skills, and which the Nova Scotia Alzheimer's Society claims affects more than 17,000 people in the province.

She also sees it regularly working part-time in a local seniors home. Her work inspired her to take a 10-week course on dementia, which taught her "a lot."

Dalton describes one gentleman in the seniors home who was sitting on his own.

"He was wearing three hats on his head. And he just looked so alone," she recalls, her voice breaking slightly. "So, I thought I want to give him a voice too....I wanted to make the connection with the people around him saying, 'I'm not this guy.'"

Similar to children's books, her This is Me books are wipe-able, hard cardboard photograph books with basic text. Loved ones of dementia sufferers can enlist her to create them from photos and information they provide.

According to Dalton, they are valuable on a number of fronts.

While seniors homes may allow residents to have photographs on their walls, they're not always easily accessible. Dalton says her This Is Me books are are easily held and can help the dementia patient to remember the life they had, as well as easily relay their life stories or the highlights of their lives to other residents, so they can have an understanding of the person.

She regularly overhears conversations in the seniors home, such as when one resident asked another, "'Are you married?' They don't know each other," comments Dalton.

The dementia books are also something that could be handed over to a caregiver coming into a home, "to say, 'This is the person you're taking care of. These are the likes and dislikes.' You know, because sometimes they just see a body in a chair. And they don't know who that person was or is," says Dalton.

She's set up a company to produce the books called Remember When ... Custom Books. She'll also make customized memoirs for anyone else who might want to share a life story or create one for someone as a gift.

Dalton's not new to producing customized books. Hailing originally from the U.K., she spent a number of years in Toronto, creating hand-made, customized wedding albums and guest books for clients such as the high-end Yorkville retailer, William Ashley.

As well, she worked for an historian who wrote memoirs for clients. "I used to do all the graphics and build books too."

However, she concedes there's more competition in the area of general memory books, and that it's the dementia books that are likely to have the greatest scope. She recalls being told by one publisher, "'If I had a book I would have bought that for my dad. If I'm a senior in a seniors home and I'm in a wheel chair, I would want to have that and talk to the other seniors and say, 'Hey. This is who I am.'"

Moreover, says Dalton, the dementia books allow those people whom they are about to reflect back on their lives and comfort themselves with the thought, "'I have had a good life.'" People with dementia can't easily do this, otherwise, says Dalton.

"I just think if there's something they can hold, and forever just go back to, I think it's reassuring," she adds.

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