‘Nana’s Books’ by Laurette Klier

Educator creates bespoke large-format books accessible to those living with dementia and other brain changes.
Book open to a page with red flowers titled, "The Flower of Liberty." (Laurette Klier)

What are Nana’s Books and how do those who are living with dementia interact with them? 

Nana’s Books is an adaptive series of 40 large-format books, considerately designed to meet the needs of people living with brain changes and their care partners. The books meld fine art, photography, and illustration with familiar, resonant poetry and verse. Each book breaks down the fourth wall of long-term care settings by providing vistas into redolent nature, art, and culture. Based in nostalgia, our print and digital libraries provide the visual and auditory cues to enhance engagement and ease conversation. Our digital collection is fully voice-enabled for shared immersive experiences and moments of reflective connection—and joy—through art.

While there is a lot available to support cognitive stimulation, and preserve function, I believe that engaging the human spirit is paramount and that books to affirm the soul are what elders living with cognitive challenges and in life review need most.

To me, Nana’s Books are intentionally about everything but mainly, transcendence.

Transcending losses of all kinds: independence, agency, loved ones, beloved pets, homes, freedom and companionship. For those in long-term care, to transcend the physical space through reconnection with their religious and spiritual foundations is incredibly restorative. 

Who initially inspired you to grapple with dementia? 

A lifetime educator, my background is in creating literacy environments to engage the reluctant reader and writer. Initially, I taught first graders, who were shakily entering the world of text through traditional means; sight words, phonics, choral reading, decoding, and the like. Never a proponent of the bottom-up approach, my classroom was rooted in grand conversations about a particular high-interest book, which we would mull over and explore together. Shared literature is an authentic invitation. 

Truly engaged, my students would evolve quickly into readers, writers, and solid communicators. Year after year, this approach yielded incredible results. When my mother-in-law, an avid reader, was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, she was dispirited and frustrated with the repurposed children’s books and cast-off magazines. I saw the need to create bespoke books with relevant, dignified content, so that she, too, could engage with art, literature, herself, and others once again.

How has working on dementia-related art changed you?

I understand that truly person-centered care encompasses so much more than previously thought. People need more than their basic needs and preferences met in order to thrive. Human flourishing is intricately entwined with our personal aesthetics, sensibilities, worldviews, histories, baseline personalities, and life’s journeys. Art accesses all of those things in subtle, yet very deep ways. When we provide carefully curated materials that lean into nostalgia (universal themes), as opposed to purely reminiscence (personal photos and items), we empower reflection without expectation. We are not imploring recall, which can create stress and evoke trauma, of people, relationships, or situations. Immersion in genre paintings and coming-of-age literature elicits story, minus personal reference, thus allowing each soul to embroider, enhance, or elide as they like. Nana’s Books are intentionally designed to give the elders and their families that grace.

How have Nana’s Books been received? 

I’m grateful for the warm reception the books have received, including the following awards: 2023 National Mature Media Award/Outstanding Digital Resource for Caregivers; 2023 National Society of Certified Senior Advisors Service to Seniors Award; and 2021 Maude’s Award for Innovation in Alzheimer’s Care for Making Connections. 

This work is dedicated to:  Those who have led rich and nuanced lives and work every day to be seen and heard, and bravely face challenges to personhood, loss of identity, diminished cognition, and expressive language losses. 

Find more from Nana’s Books or its founder Laurette Klier, MEd, CDP, CST, CSA, on its website, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

What is a Spotlight?

The Dementia Arts Spotlight promotes visual and performing artists who are grappling with dementia through original work or innovative arts programs. The Spotlight—in a Q&A format where artists describe the details and significance of their work or program—connects each artist to the Dementia Spring community. Find examples of prior Dementia Arts Spotlights here. Know of an artist whose work should be Spotlighted? Send them this link!

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