What is the Evidence?

Evidence….

We use evidence to know what’s true.  To measure.

We use evidence to diagnose a condition or disorder.

We use evidence-based research to support speech therapy activities and goals.

We use evidence to know where we’ve been, where we are, and project us towards the future.

 

Evidence can be as simple as looking at a photo album, reading a handwritten note.

Or as complex as a well designed research study, like what a SLP uses to support treatments.

 

We measure before, during, and after therapy to show progress.   Measuring can look like…..

  • Standardized tests
  • Formal measurements
  • A photo
  • A voice recording
  • A written note
  • Friend’s comments and observations

 

Relying on memory to show progress isn’t always reliable.  In rehabilitation and recovery, it’s so easy to not see the small steps.  Not recognize how each small step adds up to something huge.  Progress.  Forward momentum towards recovery.  We need to CELEBRATE recovery. 

Jo Muirhead* has designed a Book of Evidence which is inspiring, and I’d like to share what makes it so incredible.  Jo created the concept of the Book of Evidence to record all those accomplishments.   To make it easy to look back and see all you’ve done.  It’s a place to celebrate those small milestones in therapy and when you see how MANY small steps you’ve come, you’ll see what enormous progress you’ve made!

Use of a memory book to track progress

 

Examples celebrations:  

  • Writing down the correct phone number when someone dictates it.
  • Saying your loved one's name correctly.
  • Telling a story that your listener is able to follow and understand.
  • Speaking loudly enough that the waitress understands your order in a restaurant.  

 

 

“The Book of Evidence is your proof of all the good and positive energy in your life. It’s your library of thank you’s, appreciation and praise.
It’s the tangible evidence that you are enough and that the impact you have on this world and in people’s lives is real and invaluable.”  -- Jo Muirhead

 

If it’s a progressive disorder, we look at evidence a little differently.

Celebrate the good moments.  Write down or take a photograph of that relaxing day where you had coffee together in the garden.  Or the smiles watching the grandchildren.   A thank you note from a caregiver, thanking you for helping set the tables for lunch, or how much they love listening to your singing.  “Thank you for bringing a smile to my face every morning” “You tell the best stories”. 

Celebrate those small moments of joy and DOCUMENT them, so you can look back and enjoy them.  

It’s for the times when you’ve lost that fire; when you’ve forgotten what keeps you going… and all the things that make you unique, vibrant and worthy.
— Jo Muirhead

You can record these moments in a standard spiral-bound notebook.  Or select a journal with a beautiful cover that makes you smile and thick pages that feel good to turn.  The details of the paper aren't important.  What's important is what's inside.

Memory books

The same principle of memory books, or memory wallets, can be used here, but with a positive, appreciation twist. 

Where there is life … we must provide quality of life.
— Paul Raia

One of the basic human needs is purpose.   You can provide food and shelter for a loved one, tend to medical needs, but incorporating this concept of a book of evidence into your memory book helps to remind the person of their value and contributions that they make to the people around them. 

 

Memory books are amazing devices.  They can be similar to a photo album or a scrapbook.  I’ve also had clients tell me stories of their lives, then we write them out as narratives, they would sit for hours reading and enjoying.  The purpose of a Memory book is to answer those questions, where you are, where you’ve been.  To remind you of what’s important to you.  To clarify those memories that may becoming a little fuzzy. 

Components that may be included in a memory book:

Use of a memory book with people with Alzheimer's Dementia can solve so many problems, while keeping the person's dignity, indepedence and quality of life at the forefront.  

Use of a memory book with people with Alzheimer's Dementia can solve so many problems, while keeping the person's dignity, indepedence and quality of life at the forefront.  

  • Where you grew up, favorite memories
  • Who your family is
  • What your profession was
  • Your favorite Hobbies 
  • Where you are
  • Favorite trips/vacations
  • Valued TV channels or radio preset.  
  • How you like your coffee
  • Who your caregivers are
  • Your routine
  • The answers to any questions you may be asking frequently
  • Reminders
  • Happy stories
  • Thank you notes, love letters, anything that brings a smile to a person’s face or reduces stress should be included

 

The writing in Memory books shouldn’t be too long or too short.  Just the right level for the person to understand (reading is often retained after verbal communication is lost)  For example, 

  • “I enjoy gardening in the sunshine” 
  • “My wife’s name is Mary” 
  • “My dog, Checkers”

Vibrant photos are important.  Photos are often easier to understand that written.  Color contrast makes it easier to see and understand the image.  

More resources

Evidence books can be helpful for a variety of diagnoses.  They can help anyone on the rehabilitation path.  They are wonderful for aphasia as they remind you of the progress on the long road, while also providing therapy practice.  Memory books are a fantastic tool for dementia, primary progressive aphasia, post-stroke aphasia, traumatic brain injuries, and many more individual situations and needs.  

The Alzheimers Society has a template for creating a "life history book".

I highly recommend Michelle Bourgeois PhD CCC-SLP's work.  She has completed research studies and has been published regarding "memory books." Memory and Communication Aids for People with Dementia is one of her recent books. 

Contact me if you’d like help setting up a memory book for your unique situation.


*Jo Muirhead’s Book of Evidence is not an affiliate link.  In fact, I have no affiliate links on this website. It was the inspiration for this post and the concept is just that fantastic and applicable to pretty much everyone.


Beth Dolar, a certified Speech-Language Pathologist is based near De Pere, Wisconsin. She is currently expanding her private practice with focus on speech therapy for aphasia recovery and Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT-LOUD). A mother of two, she enjoys exploring creativity, family time, the outdoors, and travel. 

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