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One summer, my parents and my 10-year-old nephew Jake were visiting me and I wanted an activity we could all do together. Jake knew his grandmother had something wrong with her but he didn’t know what to do about it. So I created a family project, a simple story scrapbook, complete with photos and a storyline, starring Jake and Nana and my father. Since Jake was interested in strength and power, my tale was about the strongest kid learning about something even more powerful than physical prowess – love.
Designing a Project We Could All Participate In
This was a healing project for my family.
Jake and I worked on the storyline, then shared it with my parents. I took photos as they acted out the script.  My mother was going through a stage of being very resistant and she had a good time acting out her frustration. My depressed father actually smiled and laughed during the photo shoot.
When I had developed the photos, we sat around the table and put the scrapbook together. Mom and Dad enjoyed leafing through magazines for extra sayings and words to spice up the pages. Most of all they enjoyed sitting around, focused on something other than the confusion of Mom’s Alzheimer’s.
We all loved the finished product. We shared the project with our friends and relatives. Reading this story inspired people to reach out to my parents and stay connected.
Chasing Away the Holiday Blues
We did other story scraps –some with our family as a group, others starring individuals. Each time we loved the process and the results. We called this work, The HERO Project, because we were inviting people to have fun and be seen as the heroes they really were.
One Thanksgiving, when I was grieving because Mom could no longer help with the holiday meal, I created a HERO Project called, “The Little Kitchen that Could.” The story starred all of us and gave us a creative focus during that difficult holiday period.  My parents smiled as we sat around the dining room table, preparing for our photo shoot by taping paper faces on my pots and pans and giving the unpeeled potatoes big grins. They smiled again as they stood in the kitchen and acted out “refusing to help with the dishes.” Later, they enjoyed sitting with us as we put together our story scrapbook.
Creating a HERO Project

  • Write a simple story that has humor and meaning.
  • Stage a photo shoot, taking pictures that illustrate your story. Fill in with old photos or magazine pictures.
  • Create a collaging session, where everyone gathers to put together the script and pictures in a low-key scrapbook.
  • Celebrate by sharing your book with everyone!

Read more about the HERO Project in Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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This blog was written by Deborah Shouse, author of LOVE IN THE LAND OF DEMENTIA