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Literary Alzheimer’s: A qualitative feasibility study of dementia-friendly book groups

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posted on 2018-06-08, 02:30 authored by Sally B. Rimkeit, Gillian Claridge
Despite the estimated 47 million people living with dementia and despite reading being our most
popular cultural activity, there is lack of research around how people with dementia experience
reading and what tools can be used to help them to enjoy a good read. Current IFLA Guidelines for
Library Services to Persons with Dementia are unhelpful, as they encourage the stigmatisation and
infantalisation of the adult with dementia. There have been few strategic efforts by New Zealand
libraries to engage those living with dementia to continue reading. Nelson and Canterbury libraries
are some exceptions, providing ‘dementia-friendly’ book groups.
This report summarises the findings of a qualitative study, which asks how people living with
dementia experience reading literary fiction and how such activity is best facilitated for creativity
and enjoyment. The findings of the study refute Ribot’s ‘regression hypothesis’ of dementia. What
was striking in both focus groups was the preserved command and appreciation of language, and
the stimulation of sharing the “wonderful words” of the featured author Charles Dickens. To support
memory deficits, while preserving the stimulation of the original language, the following modifications
were found to be helpful: providing a cast of characters, reducing the amount of text, and
regularly repeating referents.

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