Stuart’s life story project

Stuart is in his late forties. He has Downs Syndrome and young onset dementia. There was urgency about producing Stuart’s story. His decline was very fast and his elderly mother was finding it more and more difficult to support him at home. His social worker was trying to find him suitable residential care. He was soon to be placed in an environment where nobody knew anything about his life, skills, interests or his personality pre diagnosis. I was asked to make a short film about his life that could go with him to his new home and help his transition. I visited Stuart’s mother and asked her about his early life, his favourite songs and copied a selection of photos from the family albums. I talked to people that knew Stuart well at the day centre which he’d been attending for many years. I then put together a fifteen-minute film using what I’d discovered about Stuart’s life, the photos and used his favourite songs as a soundtrack. Towards the end of his time at the day centre very few activities engaged Stuart, but he was interested in his film and enjoyed the music and seeing pictures of himself and his family. For this particular project Stuart did not benefit directly through his enjoyment of sharing his story, but he did benefit from being ‘known’ by people in his new environment. An unexpected outcome was the impact the film had on his mother. A few days after she’d received her copy she sent me a thank you card. She had watched it many times, shown it to her friends and said that she’d treasure it always. She had fought to keep Stuart with her at home. He was her first-born son. The last thing she wanted was for him to go in to care. She told me how watching Stuart’s story made her realise what a happy life he’d had- he was smiling in all the photos. The film played a valuable part in helping Stuart’s mother accept her grief at having to let him go and celebrate the life they’d had together.

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