Powerful Alzheimer’s narrative nets radio documentary award

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

When done well, there may be no better medium for storytelling than radio. When vivid narrative is paired powerful audio, “There’s something about sound that puts our imaginations to work, making us more active participants in the story we’re hearing,” as journalism professor Casey Frechette wrote recently.

A 25-minute radio documentary,  “Living well with dementia – a personal journey” from journalist Pieter Droppert provides a vivid example of radio’s power for storytelling. The piece won first prize for Best Radio Documentary in the 2014 UK Broadcast Journalism Training Council student journalism awards.

Alzheimer's Walk 2013, Atlanta, GA

Image by Susumu Komatsu via flickr.

We are introduced to Droppert’s mother, Audrey, whose disease has progressed to the stage where she no longer recognizes him. We also meet Tommy Dunne, who talks about life with early-onset dementia, and hear from experts who are working to increase awareness of this devastating disease and improve quality of life for those requiring nursing home care.

A combination of solid reporting skills (Droppert is an experienced freelance science writer who regularly blogs for BioTech Strategy) and effective first-person voice helps paint a vivid panorama of caring for dementia patients in the UK. The story also offers hope from experts who are working to move from traditional bland institutional care to environments that engage and stimulate patients.

Droppert scripted vivid analogies to describe the disease: “…like an oil slick it creeps through the mind, tangling with the connections of neurons that create memory…” It immediately allows listeners to visualize exactly what’s going on inside the brain.

By interweaving expert interviews, sad statistics about the disease and conversations with those affected Droppert produces a compelling, must-hear story which not only touches listener emotions but reaches out and takes them along on the journey.

How did Droppert tell such a powerful personal story while maintaining journalistic objectivity? Check out this How I Did It Q&A.



Leave a Reply