My Life Films produces biographical films for people with dementia. The objectives of the charity are to relieve the needs of people living with dementia and the effect dementia has on their families, friends and carers. It provides a cross-generational platform allowing young filmmakers to work with older people to create a magnificent testimonial of the life of a person living with dementia. Using modern technology, films are produced and can be watched on tablets, smart phones, computers and televisions. Assisted technology is certainly the way forward in helping many people with dementia remain in their own homes, supporting the carer and easing the daily routine.
The Charity so far has made over 60 film packages for people living with dementia in and around London. Beneficiaries have a diagnosis of dementia and are referred to the charity by local healthcare providers. The film packages are being delivered for free. Films are made for families from all different ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, ability and sexual orientation.
Each film package contains a long film (30+ minutes) made up of the person's photographs and video interviews with key members of the family. It is set to their favourite music tracks. The films are not broadcast but are private therapeutic tools for people with dementia to retain a sense of their identity. They offer an opportunity to capture the person's most treasured memories and instil a sense of pride and happiness. The diligent research process identifies any areas of the story, which may cause distress and excludes them from the film with the advice of the family carer. The film focuses on the positive and has benefits for the whole family. Family carers can use the film as a memory trigger or as entertainment for the person with dementia. Other members of the family, such as grandchildren, have a record of the life story of their relative, which can be watched for years to come.
This service tackles a number of needs. Firstly, many people with dementia often feel depressed or socially isolated. The film package encourages them to celebrate positive memories and the research process reaches out to friends and family members who may increase their social contact with the person. Secondly, many family carers become highly stressed and anxious as a result of constant care duties. The film packages are designed specifically for the attention span of someone with dementia and are therefore more likely to entertain and captivate the person. Family carers can get some respite from care duties whilst the film is playing. The film can be used every day if popular. Thirdly, younger relatives may feel disconnected from the person with dementia since communication has become difficult. The film can act as a conversation starter and its digital format makes it accessible and versatile.
The films packages also contain a 5-minute film for professional carers. This film has photographs, music and voiceover. It gives the most essential biographical information relating to the life story. This helps the carer to bond with their patient and to personalize their care. Professional carers, especially domiciliary carers, often have multiple patients; the short film could also be an effective way of helping them maximize productivity. If they have good relationships with their patients and have easy access to biographical information, there may be less resistance or challenging behaviour from patients.
The process of making the films takes several weeks and includes at least four visits by the filmmaker. We have found that participants enjoy the process itself as it offers a welcome change of routine and a focus on happier times.