Using Meema Stories to Create Meaningful Connections

Caregivers in a variety of settings can use Meema Stories to create more meaningful connections with their spouse, parent, client, resident or patient.  It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it?  Can it really be that easy?  Can anyone do it?  How does that actually work in practice? 

Experienced caregivers of all kinds have long been using resources like family albums, magazines to make conversation and build or reinforce relationships in the context of eldercare and dementia care.  Engagement, social interaction, and conversation are the only antidotes we have for loneliness and social isolation that so often accompanies chronic disability in aging.  Art and music have also been terrific tools.  Over the past decade or so, caregivers with technology skills have also turned to Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube in their endless quest for stimulating, relevant materials.  Now these caregivers are can use Meema Stories too, which are easier than ever because they are curated, created just for this purpose, inexpensive or free, accessible and packed with iconic images, audio and video and conversation starters on tested themes. 

So the media part is pretty clear.  But how do experienced caregivers actually use it?  And how can anyone else learn to do it?

Here's how experienced caregivers have to use Meema Stories: senior couple looking at laptop smiling alan amy

  1. Set aside time and space for an activity, even 10 or 15 minutes will suffice.
  2. Introduce or frame the activity as a bit of fun, something to do.
  3. Sit down in a comfortable, quiet setting, conducive to conversation and begin.
  4. Select a Meema Story from the catalog or an email link or social media post.
  5. Initiate and then interact with the story.
  6. Engage each other in conversation.
  7. Reflect and learn.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, it is and it isn't. When experts use materials to stimulate conversation in these ways -- therapists, psychologists and social workers -- it seems so easy, effortless even.

However, anyone who has tried this on their own from first principles can attest that in fact it does NOT feel natural and requires at least some effort, especially in the beginning.  It's likely to feel awkward at first.  Less than perfect and failed attempts to start conversation can make everyone feel uncomfortable, at least temporarily.  This is not at all surprising if you think about it.  After all, there's a tremendous body of knowledge and skill behind every one of the steps in this process.  These experts spend years learning and perfecting their art. 

And yet, on the other hand, all of us come already equipped with everything we need to get started, to appreciate the stories, to relate them to our own lives, to produce entertaining and enjoyable conversation, to begin accruing experience and developing techniques, and even to experience what we call a "Meema Connection."  In other words, it can work even though it feels awkward.  It can work if all parties are motivated to communicate, motivated to connect.

How do I know this?  Because I've done it.  It wasn't easy when I started.  And although it was fun and interesting from the very beginning, I wasn't particularly good at it.  But since then I've been practicing and learning.  I've been working with others.  And I've been reading about, interviewing and observing skilled caregivers for years now.   And now I'm more comfortable (and more motivated) than ever.

Your experience may be different, of course.  You may find it more or less difficult than I did.  Perhaps you (or the person you are caring for) are more or less motivated.  But I continue to believe that we all have what's needed to start.  You're likely to see positive results early in the process if you keep an open mind for what success looks like and if you look for signs of what we call a "Meema Connection".  You will get better at it.  And what you learn about your spouse, parent, client or resident and even yourself can be tremendously rewarding.

To help in this learning process, each of the items in the above list will be unpacked in coming months.   For example, what do we mean precisely by "introduce or frame the activity" above?  How exactly can you "engage each other in conversation?"  What exactly should you say?  How do you start an authentic conversation?  Are there things you should avoid saying?  Each of these topics are vast.  And each will be topics for future blog posts.  Each of them can be linked to books, articles, YouTube videos and other websites. So much work has been done on these subjects.

senior couple looking at camera smilingAll you need to do is to subscribe to our email Meema News service to learn about new posts.  Or come back to the blog any time you need to be inspired. 

Contact us to let us know what you're doing, what works, and what does not.  Feedback is really important to us, especially as we're just getting started.

Eventually, we hope Meema users just like you will contribute to this body of knowledge too.