Life story work

MTC Dementia coverA person’s life story – the experiences, relationships, joys and sorrows – is the core of their identity.

Dementia challenges the continuity and coherence of the person’s own account, so it is essential that those providing care and support have a good understanding and knowledge of the person’s life story in order to provide care that is person-centred.

Professor Bob Woods FAcSS and his team at the Dementia Services Development Centre at Bangor University carried out research which looked at how life story work helps preserve a person’s identity and, in doing this, enhances the level of care they receive. In one care home study, life story books – which simply told the story of who they had been, what they had enjoyed doing, who their family and friends were – clearly helped improve both the quality of life and also the autobiographical memory of the person with dementia, as well as leading to staff knowing the person better and reporting more positive attitudes to dementia. Further, relatives reported an improvement in their relationship with the person with dementia, finding the book made visiting a more positive experience.

This research has now been widely adopted using a variety of media, including digital apps as well as conventional books. The Department of Health funded the Life Story Network to train over 500 health and social care staff, family carers and volunteers in life story work, arising from the national dementia strategy.

Organisations such as the Social Care Institute of Excellence (SCIE), major charities including Dementia UK and Alzheimer’s Society, and professional organisations such as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have also promoted the approach as good practice. A joint Alzheimer’s Society / RCN brief life story template ‘This is Me’ is used in general hospital wards across the country to help staff quickly get to know the person and their preferences, contributing to person-centred care for thousands of people with dementia.

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