Life Story Work

What are your memories from school? What types of music do you like listening to?

These are just two of the questions our Life Story Book suggests carers and health professionals could work through with people living with dementia.

Life Story Work is an activity which involves reviewing a person’s past life events and developing a biography. This Life Story Book can be used in a care setting to help staff understand more about the individual and their experiences.

Life Story Work enhances the care provided to older people, particularly those with dementia. The potential benefits of Life Story Work as an intervention for people with dementia and their families have been recognised for some time, in terms of promoting individualised care, improving assessment, building relationships between care staff and family carers as well as improving communication. (Clarke 2002, Bryan and Maxim 1998)

A template for putting together Life Story books has been developed by Dementia UK and the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

This framework is used by staff to help them to deliver person-centred care. This is a collaborative process with family members and friends and emphasis is placed on using images and photographs to bring the life story book ‘to life’. The template can be adapted and updated according to individual needs or preferences and a copy can be stored electronically in case of loss or damage.

To cite this work please use the following reference:

Thompson R. (2011) Using life story work to enhance care. Nursing Older People 23 (8): 16-21

A project supported by the Foundation of Nursing Studies (FoNs) and Dementia UK involved the facilitation of life story work within seven NHS Older Adult Mental Health in-patient areas. Admiral Nurses facilitated the work in each area using systematic approaches to developing practice and supporting staff members in developing their knowledge and skills.

The results of this project indicated where Life Story Work was successfully implemented within in-patient settings; this resulted in improved understanding of patients and family carers by staff. The experience of doing life story work was overwhelmingly positive and there was evidence that the delivery of care had become more person-centred as result.

Whilst successful implementation of life story work was achieved within all the in-patient settings, outcomes were better in areas which had the following characteristics:

• Strong and consistent leadership

• Higher ratio of qualified staff to unqualified staff

• Context or culture that supports change and encourages communication