“Hello Old Nanny!” – The power and impact of storytelling, by Pauline, Josi & Mr Tommy

Pauline lives at Mundy House Care Home in Essex. She is often visited by her great-grandson Tommy – aka “Mr Tommy” – who brings Pauline a lot of joy!

Josi, Manager of Mundy House and a graduate of a My Home Life programme in Essex, realised that talking about Mr Tommy’s visits was having a positive impact on Pauline, who is living with dementia.

So the two started regular storytelling sessions, giving Pauline the opportunity to express her thoughts and feelings and reflect on her dementia. It also allows former-journalist Josi to “decompress”, “reconnect” and rediscover his passion for writing.

We bring you Pauline’s story of Mr Tommy in her own words, with reflections from Josi about the positive impact – including on dementia and memory, mental health, a sense of belonging, happiness and feelings of accomplishment…


Chapter 1 – Mr Tommy

“Once upon a time, there was a little Tommy, we called him Mr Tommy. Mr Tommy first came to Mundy House to see me, his nanny, when he was only few weeks old.

Every time I see him, he keeps me going, as I am living with dementia and my life was going down. Mr Tommy’s every visit makes me look forward for his next visit.

I live with dementia. It affects my daily life. When I am thinking about something the words don’t come out properly and I will not be alright for 10-20 minutes. I shut myself down including my speech for a short period of time. I feel terrible and frustrated. I am quite old, I should enjoy my rest of the life.

I know it is the same for everyone else with dementia, but is just unbearable sometimes. I would never ever do any bad things, because I love Tommy and my family. So Mr Tommy is the centre of my life now. I want to live for him and everybody else.”

Josi’s Reflection

– “As Manager of Mundy House Care Home, in those moments when my job is feeling really tough, I try to reconnect with what gives me energy to carry on. Mostly this is about spending time with the people that live here. A few weeks ago, Pauline came into my office to talk to me about her great grandson Tommy. For her, talking about Tommy gave her new life and hope. For me it was a great experience, helping me to decompress and keep going. Mr Tommy is part of our Mundy family.”


Chapter 2

“On another wet and cold day of November, I was waiting for Tommy to come and see me. Even though it was cold outside, my inside was warm for him – to see his face and his laugh.

When I see Tommy, I can’t even describe the feeling, it is so great to see him! I wish I could see more of him. How lovely it was to be all together.

It’s wonderful – Mr Tommy is talking to me now! He is calling me nanny and I love it. It is quite unusual to talk early, and he is very good talking and recognising people. He chuckles a bit and finds things funny.”

Josi’s Reflection

– “My feeling was ‘wow – I wanted to continue this’. I am emotionally supporting Pauline and it gives me a great feeling of happiness and satisfaction.”


Chapter 3 – Christmas is a time for happiness

“It seems like we are preparing for Christmas, as I can see lights and Christmas trees up in Mundy House! Staff and others seem more cheerful. People hand over Christmas presents. I think Mr Tommy loves Christmas! He likes the Christmas hat.

My favourite Christmas present is – last year I have Tommy! I can’t ask for more than that. He was born and came to me as a Christmas present.

I am not fussy about his presents, anything, but I like him to give me laughs, chat, and happiness. He is now one year old, and he can do lots of things now, – he calls me nanny and he calls you Josi, which is amazing. Mr Tommy does show his little palm to me and presses it on to my hand. People call it a high five. I love it!”

Josi’s Reflection

– “This time with Pauline is having a huge impact on me, as I think I am finding the writer inside me – I was a journalist for 10 years in India. I loved the writing and literary works, and now this is giving me an opportunity to bring my writing skills back. Also, I am prompting Pauline to remember who she is and who and what is around her.”


Chapter 4 – My Christmas with Mr Tommy, the little Santa

“I had a surprise visit from Santa Claus this year, but he was not the normal huge Santa in the stories, only a little one. It was Mr Tommy!

Mr Tommy was wearing a Santa outfit, red and white, and he was wearing a Christmas hat as well. He was pretty jolly, and he sat on my lap and held my face and hair.  He likes to rush around and around, clinging on to my Zimmer frame. Even though he was my little Santa he didn’t bring any physical presents, but he gave me kisses, cuddles and he never wants to go home after that. So that was my real Christmas present this year, and I was so happy.”

Josi’s Reflection

– “Before typing this chapter, I was checking my emails, then Pauline asked me ‘are we still writing Mr Tommy’s story?’ I replied yes and then Pauline told me that she had a few more lines to add. I was so happy about this, as I felt that Pauline was still thinking about the story lines outside of the writing sessions, so I think I helped her with memory and thinking skills.”


Chapter five – ‘hello old nanny!’

“Once upon a time, there was a little boy called Tommy. He may be 15 months old now, but still he is my little boy. He always greets me with a big smile, and he says ‘HELLO OLD NANNY!’

When I see Mr Tommy, my feeling is love. It makes me forget I am very old and brings me back to feeling a lot younger. My body may be old, but my mind is younger. He recognises Josi and quite a few people, and they are all waiting for him to visit. It works well for others to see him. They also seem happy when he is around.

Mr Tommy will be 2 years old in June. I want him to grow and know about the world. I want to him to remain a happy boy.”

Josi’s Reflection

– “I’ve been very busy these days but whenever I see Pauline and she mentions Mr Tommy’s story it is a good thing, as she can remember that we’re still writing the story. So, this morning Pauline was in my office and when she noticed I am typing on computer, she asked me ‘are we ready for Mr Tommy’s story’. I said yes and we got another chapter today. I feel happy as I supported Pauline with her memory and feelings, and her vision about her and Tommy’s life. Also, I made a relationship with Mr Tommy. I love his company now and he makes me feel younger!!”


Chapter 6

“Mr Tommy has got some music instruments now, but I think he is pretending to play – I don’t think it is easy for him! I think he has a piano. He is always cheerful and smiling, and his presence gives me goosebumps. He does have the occasional wimp as well, but not many of those! It does make me happy and smile a lot.

Mr Tommy coming to me changed my life. Obviously, I don’t see him much, but whenever he comes to me, I am so happy. I can’t look after a small baby now as I am old.

When Mr Tommy comes next time, we will do another story. We are still doing it, even if he is grown up! I love to come and tell you how I feel about it. I feel fine to tell you this story and it makes me think about something and concentrate on something. I don’t know how much it helps me with my dementia, but this has got to help me – it’s better for my dementia as it gives me an opportunity to remember and think about something I love to talk about. I feel better now than I felt this morning.”

Pauline reading the Dementia Guide

Josi’s Reflection

– “Another great day starts with Pauline’s narration about Tommy. I am happy to know how she feels about this conversation, and she thinks it is helping her dementia. Pauline is well aware of dementia, as she knows it is affecting her memory and daily life. I have given a dementia guide to Pauline and she was going through it like a student searching for knowledge. I loved this session!”




Thank you to Pauline and Josi for sharing this piece with us!

If you have a story from your care setting that you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear it. Please email us at: mhl@city.ac.uk