Word Collages

I’ve been using word collages since 2004  in relation to projects involving awareness and support of dementia and people living with dementia.

I first heard about this form of poetic representation of a person’s words when I was lucky enough to be lent the book (which I later purchased) Openings by writer John Killick and photographer Carl Cordonnier. They travelled Europe collecting beautiful images of care and the words of those being cared for. It is a book well worth hunting down.

The reason I’m using this as one form of media is because people’s voices matter and they offer a personal insight into thoughts, hearts, minds and personalities as well as local history. Being able to share thoughts and conversations is vital for self esteem and connecting with others.

One of the problems with communication through the kinds of issues the symptoms of dementia gives rise to is the time it takes to communicate and how trains of thought can be lost. Word collage can effectively glue the trains of thought back together over several conversations and sometimes several days or hours and create something that still showcases that original thought.

At times, the words that can’t be found are replaced with something even better. One lady was finishing her breakfast with her son recently and I noticed her tea was getting cold, so I brought her a fresh cup and she said ‘This is my…. my… This is my….’
Her son stepped in and said ‘I’m your son, Mum.’
just as she looked at me with beautiful, bright blue eyes, shining with pride, she held her hand over her heart and said
‘He’s my own’.
Here’s an example:

Have you been round all the neighbours?

I’m going to town but I’ll see how big my brood is.
At the school.
I’ll finish up here and get washed, take off my apron.
God be with you.

Have you been round all the neighbours?
Will you have a cup of tea?
Sit down, stay a while, come in, sit with me.
Tell me what the neighbours said.

Put the dog out. The fire is going out.
I’ve been to the shore.
I’m late for the postman.
Is it raining?
The washing is out. I’ll get it.

I’ll just put these to bed. It’s getting late.
The fire is getting low, put some more on.
We’ll sit by the fire and talk, oh yes.

Shifting back in time through dementia is not always a negative experience, as these words show. Often, there are memories relating to a time of great  purpose, a bygone era of village life, of crofting, of nursing, of caring for each other’s children and each other, of visiting neighbours, of talking by the fire as it burned down. These memories were shared by several people with a warm smile and a glow of contentment. Paula

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