Using Photography and Storytelling With People With Early-Stage Dementia to Understand Their Lived Experience and Enable Them to Tell Their Stories

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


There is a growing need to include people with dementia in research so that they are able to share their experiences and have a say in the future provision of services. This research used a unique combination of participatory visual and creative methods with people with early-stage dementia to understand how best to support inclusion in research. This research was designed to explore whether these methods can support participation and collaboration, helping people with dementia to have a voice in research and to have ownership in the process.

A multi-method approach used photo-elicitation, poetry and storytelling techniques with people with dementia who undertake lifelong learning at VUK school in Denmark. The project aimed to understand the dynamics of these methods when used with people with dementia to explore if they could support the participants to share their experiences of attending the school. Participants (n=10) took their own photographs of the school and of their home lives and these were discussed during four weekly sessions. The participants created a poem and storyboard about being at the school and told stories about their home life and what it means to live with dementia.

The findings show these methods can provide people with dementia the opportunity to share their experiences, through supported engagement. These methods offered flexibility, which helped to meet the needs of the participants, supporting their memory and helping to share their stories, without having to rely on verbal ability alone. The participants were observed to make choices about what they wanted to photograph and subsequently what they wanted to discuss in the sessions, and how their ‘artistic’ outputs were used. They took on the role of the facilitator by asking each other questions and by asking the researcher to share stories of their home life with the group. This was evidenced to be a collaborative method which placed the person with dementia’s experience at the forefront of the research.
Date of Award27 Mar 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorJacqueline Parkes (Supervisor) & Helen Lomax (Supervisor)


  • Dementia
  • photography
  • storytelling
  • creative methods
  • visual methods
  • lifelong learning

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