Bird Tales

A Program for Engaging People with Dementia through the Natural World of Birds

By Randy L. Griffin, RN, MS, HNC, and Ken Elkins

ISBN: 978-1-932529-99-9
18-min DVD
plus 48-page guide
© 2013


Bird Tales is an easy-to-implement therapeutic program that uses multisensory stimulation and the natural outdoor world of birds to help people living with dementia interact with their environment and share a meaningful experience with others. Observing birds through sight, sound, smell and touch can encourage staff and family interactions even in elders with advanced dementia, and lift their mood for the rest of the day!

Listen to an NPR interview with Ken Elkins, co-developer of the Bird Tales program.

Bird Tales tells you how to create a healthier, more attractive environment at your facility or home, while promoting your participants’ engagement with their environment and providing them with an easy, comforting way to share a moment with others or reminisce about something they’ve enjoyed doing in the past. Now, with this training DVD plus accompanying step-by-step program guide, you will have the tools and information you need to start your own Bird Tales Program! Developed by a dementia care expert and an environmental specialist from the Audubon Society, Bird Tales includes:

  • Captivating video footage demonstrating the best ways to engage participants in a range of Bird Tales activities
  • Instructions for improving your outdoor environment to attract native birds and maintain a healthy outdoor space
  • Tips for training facility and activity staff
  • Solutions for unexpected behaviors or challenging situations that might arise during Bird Tales activities
  • Lesson plans with suggested themes, venues, modifiable activities, and educator scripts
  • Bird Tales Activity Cards—use right from the program guide or go the provided URL to print and laminate

Each Bird Tales Activity Card has a beautiful, full-color photo of a common bird on the front and “look, listen, feel” tips on the back. These large vibrant bird photos bring the birds to the person’s lap, making it easier to see the birds up-close. The interesting facts on the back offer useful conversational prompts for those who want to talk about their bird.

The plush Audubon™ Birds by Wild Republic® that share their songs with just a gentle squeeze are featured in the video, while the program guide describes how to use them for added sensory stimulation during indoor activities. Participants will delight in the experience of listening to the authentic bird calls inside home or facility. The Audubon birds are readily available for purchase online and through a variety of stores near you.

Perfect for activity professionals, social workers and family caregivers looking for an enriching but easy-to-implement activity program for people living with dementia, Bird Tales provides an ideal therapeutic program for a wide variety of settings and participants. With only a pair of binoculars or the printed photographs and activity cards from your program guide, you can run this low-cost program seven days a week inside or outdoors. Think of the connections you can foster by making bird feeders with peanut butter and pine cones, strolling outside in the garden, or viewing photographs together of common backyard birds. With these simple natured-based activities you can help people with dementia benefit from the natural environment and share a joyful activity with others.

The Benefits of Birds and Nature for People with Dementia

Attracting Birds to Your Facility

  • Food
  • Water
  • Nesting
  • Shelter
  • Bird Feeding Basics
  • Selective Deeds
  • Feeder Maintenance and Hygiene
  • Eliminate or Reduce Pesticide Use
  • Plant Native Species
  • Take Action! Planting Natives

The Bird Tales Therapeutic Program

  • Getting Started
  • Elements of a Successful Program
  • Understanding Dementia
  • Essential Tools
  • Setting the Stage
  • Communication
  • Situations


  • Activity Lessons and Bird Tales Activity Cards
  • Activity: Making New Feathered Friends
  • Activity: Bird Songsters

About the Authors

Bird Tales Activity Cards

  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Mourning Dove
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Northern Cardinal

Bird Tales: A Program for E… by on Scribd

Randy L. Griffin, RN, MS, HNC, is an expert in the field of dementia care. With more than 30 years of experience—ranging from nursing and nutritional services to program development and health care administration—Randy is pioneering the practice of “intentional caregiving” for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Her approach centers on treating the whole person, not just the individual’s symptoms, by creating a culture rich with emotional nourishment. Her book Changing the Culture for Dementia Care, published by PESI Health Care, is now available on, Pesihealthcare, and Barnes & Noble.

Randy’s programs and models have set new standards in caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias while educating their families and caregivers. Randy recently developed “The Trusting Touch,” a Webinar that teaches the importance of intentional actions and verbal communications during such activities as bathing, dressing and dental care. Randy also is the author of “S.A.F.E. Response Techniques in Crisis Situations,” a four-step process to show staff how to safely handle agitation and address aggressive behaviors when caring for people with dementia. In addition, Randy has developed innovative dining programs for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Earlier in her career, Randy was the Director of Nutritional Services for the Connecticut Hospice, the first free-standing hospice in the U.S. While working for the hospice, she developed one of the first sensory-enhanced pureed cuisine culinary programs for terminally ill individuals. She also authored the first published cookbook on the formation of sensory-enhanced purees. Later, Randy was the Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Resource Center and also served as its Director of Education, Training, and Research. Her background in nursing and culinary training as a chef in Paris provided the impetus for her innovative approaches to nursing care, dining creations, and culture change for long-term care facilities. “Dining with Grace” is one of the programs she created specifically to enhance the dining experience for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Randy is also a Certified Holistic Nurse, Reflexologist, and Therapeutic Touch practitioner and instructor. Randy’s DVD, An Introduction to Therapeutic Touch, was released in June 2012. Recognized as an expert in the fields of dementia and hospice care, Randy lectures and leads workshops nationwide while providing consulting services to health care facilities. For more information about Randy, please visit:

Ken Elkins believes that an appreciation for the plants and animals in a person’s community is the first step in leading them to conservation action. Ken knows his program participants are not always the ones who are ultimately influenced to take action. He has found that cultivating an appreciation for nature in one person can have a cascading effect on a family or even a community.

He likes to illustrate this point through a real life story: A three-year-old boy visited the Audubon Center at Bent of the River during a field trip. The experience left quite an impression on the boy, so he dragged his grandparents back to the Center that afternoon. The boy and the grandparents returned once a week for over a month to come watch feeders, see displays, and ask questions. The grandfather started to enjoy himself as much as the boy, so he became a member, started attending programs, and eventually became a dedicated volunteer. The grandfather is now an active part of the Center, all because a three-year-old went on a field trip.

Ken earned his degree in Environmental Biology from S.U.N.Y. College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and has worked in the environmental education field for over 10 years before joining the Bent of the River staff in 2008; he spent 7 years with CT Audubon Society, and 3 with Westmoor Park in West Hartford. Ken’s interest in birds started when he was 10 years old, while watching the birds at his grandmother’s feeders in Vermont, and he has been obsessed ever since.

Ken Elkins is one of 40 individuals nationwide selected as a 2011 TogetherGreen Fellow. Supported by a conservation alliance of Audubon and Toyota, the TogetherGreen Fellowship offers specialized training in conservation planning and execution, the chance to work and share best practices with gifted conservation professionals, and assistance with project outreach and evaluation. Each Fellow receives $10,000 towards a community-focused project to engage local residents in conserving land, water and energy, and contributing to greater environmental health.

With his Fellowship, Ken developed a new program for Audubon. Bird Tales incorporates Audubon At Home environmental principles into the goals of assisted living facilities to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia. Ken has always embraced the challenges of working with a new or non-traditional audience as an environmental educator. With his work with dementia patients, he’ll be using the healing power of nature to enrich the lives of others.


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