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Dangling conversations: reflections on the process of creating digital stories during a workshop with people with early-stage dementia


R. Stenhouse, Division of Nursing and Counselling, School of Social and Health Science, University of Abertay Dundee, Bell Street, Dundee DD1 1HG, UK, E-mail:


Accessible summary

  • • Digital stories provide a creative way for people to tell their stories using an amalgamation of voice, image and music, and can be used to engage nurses with others' experiences in the classroom setting.
  • • Seven people with early-stage dementia and one carer participated in making their own stories during a digital storytelling workshop.
  • • These participants experienced particular and varied challenges relating to telling a story and engaging with the technical process of digital storytelling. They were supported in overcoming these challenges through person-centred relationships with facilitators, allowing them to negotiate the help required.
  • • During the workshop a number of positive changes were observed in the participants: increased confidence, improved speech, a sense of purpose and increased connection.


Care and compassion are key features of the NHS Constitution. Recent reports have identified a lack of compassion in the care and treatment of older people. Nurses draw on aesthetic knowledge, developed through engagement with the experience of others, when providing compassionate care. Patient Voices reflective digital stories are used in healthcare education to facilitate student engagement with the patient experience. Digital stories were made with seven people with early-stage dementia as part of a learning package for student nurses. In this paper the authors reflect on their experience and observations from facilitating the 4-day digital story-making workshop. Social theories of dementia provide a theoretical framework for understanding these reflections. Despite considerable challenges in developing a story, and anxiety about using the technology, reading and speaking, all participants engaged in creating their own digital stories. Positive changes in the participants' interactions were observed. These improvements appeared to be the product of the person-centred facilitation and the creative process which supported self-expression and a sense of identity. Nurses working in this way could facilitate ability of the person with dementia to participate in their care, and improve their sense of well-being by supporting self-expression.