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How might the cultural significance of storytelling in Deaf communities influence the development of a life-story work intervention for Deaf people with dementia? A conceptual thematic review

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2018

Alys Young*
SORD, Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Emma Ferguson-Coleman
SORD, Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
John Keady
SORD, Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
*Corresponding author. Email:


Although life-story work is an established form of support for people with dementia and their carers, culturally Deaf people who are sign language users have been excluded from this practice. There is no evidence base for the cultural coherence of this approach with Deaf people who sign, nor any prior investigation of the linguistic and cultural adaptation that might be required for life-story work to be effective for sign language users with dementia. Given the lack of empirical work, this conceptual thematic literature review approaches the topic by first investigating the significance of storytelling practices amongst Deaf communities across the lifespan before using the findings to draw out key implications for the development of life-story work with culturally Deaf people who experience dementia and their formal and informal carers (whether Deaf or hearing). The reviewed work is presented in three themes: (a) the cultural positioning of self and others, (b) learning to be Deaf and (c) resistance narratives and narratives of resistance. The article concludes that life-story work has the potential to build on lifelong storying practices by Deaf people, the functions of which have included the (re)forming of cultural identity, the combating of ontological insecurity, knowledge transmission, the resistance of false identity attribution, and the celebration of language and culture.

Review Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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