Bridging  Memories with Caregiver Tools
Books As Memory Bridges
Cover to Cover Book Reviews by Linda Wasserman                                               Caregiver Tools: Bridging Memories                              by Laura Levitan, LCSW; Mary Beth Sloan, RN; and Derek Ferebee When you first look at Caregiver Tools: Bridging Memories, you may think it’s a calendar because of its size, shape and format. When you open it, however, you will find no days or months listed inside. You may then think you have opened a workbook. After all, there are questions to answer on almost every page. The title on the cover tells you, though, that you have a set of tools in hand. As you start to read the book, you learn that the tools are communication tools you can use to talk with a loved one, friend, or patient who suffers with dementia or some other memory or brain disorder. This specialized book, this “set of tools,” grew from some the authors’ experiences while they tried to communicate either with patients or with their own family members who suffered from memory disorders. Developed by Laura Levitan, a licensed clinical social worker; Mary Beth Sloan, a registered nurse; and Derek Ferebee, a photographer, the book is a series of photographs of major  life events and everyday experiences—from weddings to holidays, from food to fishing poles, from visits to the beach to military service. The photographs act as a means to stir memories and to start conversations. Although the photographs alone can start a conversation, each photograph has a matching set of questions that you can ask of the loved one or patient to further enhance the conversation and to help bring forth more memories. Also, since music often serves as a powerful emotional stimulus to evoke and uncover long-lost memories, the authors were clever enough to match certain songs titles to some of the photographs. Therefore, you may find that singing these songs with the patient, or playing recordings of them, offers another means to ease into what is often a difficult communication process. The authors provide three enhancements that will help you as a reader or user of the book. The first, near the beginning, is a set of directions to guide you: a) to make the most of the format of the book and b) to approach the loved one or patient in the most beneficial way possible in order to enhance your conversations. The second enhancement is the addition of an affirmation after each photograph’s set of questions. For example, the photograph of the pet cats is followed by the following affirmation: “Pets rely on us to take care of them.” These affirmations can be used either to expand or to close your conversations. The final enhancement is a simple blank page at the back that you can use to customize the book by adding some of your loved one’s personal photos. For the second printing of Caregiver Tools, I suggest three format changes to improve the value and usability of this already valuable communication tool. First, I suggest that all the directions be  listed on one page. The directions are easily read on the two pages as they are now, but if someone wanted to copy them—to share with other family members or staff members—they would be easier to copy if they were printed on just one page. Second, I suggest that each of the photographs be matched up with at least one song. That might take a little effort on the part of the authors, but it would only add to the overall value of the book and to each of the individual opportunities for communication. Finally, related to this same subject, I suggest that, in addition to including the overall list of song titles by page number, each song title should be listed on the appropriate page next to the musical note. That would keep the user from having to refer back to the original list each time the page is turned.
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