The importance of the life story in memory care
What do the direct care staff, and life enrichment staff members gain from knowing more about the story? The life story shares the following critical information:
- What events shaped this person’s life and personality?
A) Who are they? What did they do? What brings them happiness? What brings up bad memories?
- What relationships were, and still are, most important? So important to understand for staff.
- What did this unique person accomplish and how can we acknowledge and celebrate that now?
- Exactly what does he or she like to do, and where does he or she like to go? Personalizing activities in memory care makes a lot of sense — and doing one-on-one activities, based on what you have learned, is a key component in person-centered care.
- How can you make this person’s day the best it can be?
A) How can you bring simple comfort, joy and familiarity to this person?
B) Cue him or her with a reminder of a special past experience, or have a conversation that fits his or her known interests.
Sometimes, we reach a point when the family must share the person’s past. A new admission in memory care would be a prime example of this situation.
- Adult children are very able to do this, especially if they understand how it will help staff to know more about their parent, grandparent or other loved one.
It is just a matter of asking the right questions and keeping the process general and simple enough that it is not overwhelming to anyone.
- An ideal time to start the life story can be during initial conversations with the family or during a family roundtable or meeting.
- The family’s expectations are that your community will work to know their parent or grandparent deeply, so deliver on that brand promise.
Just spending even 30 minutes with a family member to learn more about his or her loved one will be welcomed and will help everyone who surrounds the new resident.
We have even learned that reaching the family member a few weeks after move-in still can be a great time to ask questions over the phone and learn more about the incredible loved one. The life story is one of the most logical and natural ways to engage.
Don’t wait until the memory loss diagnosis
In a continuing care community with assisted living, it only makes sense to kick off the life storytelling process with intention, when seniors are able to record it themselves.
- Because residents are in their 70s, 80s or 90s, they have much to share.
- Every person has decades of personal life events to record, relationships to recount, historical events to remember and just sweet memories from childhood to recall.
- New neighbors become much closer friends when they realize what they have in common in a group where they have a chance to write or talk with other people from their generation. Memories just swirl around and affect the rest of the group; we are fascinated by the strong bonds that come from life story classes.
Memories are priceless, and the legacy matters
Only about 6% of Americans ever record a legacy for their children and grandchildren. So, another beautiful result of the life story process is helping families capture a few words of wisdom from their loved ones or even a quick glimpse of what life was like when he or she was a child and teenager. When the person is gone, the information is truly like gold to the family, and they will be grateful for your assistance. Your community can make a lasting legacy a reality just by starting a life story program.
Finding your way through memory care is a special set of circumstances that requires a special solution. At Emerson House, we have the knowledge and experience needed to best care for the Alzheimer or memory impaired individual.
We offer this list of resources and invite you to contact us if you have any questions about memory care in Boise: (208) 377-3177.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Information:
Alzheimer’s Association — national voluntary organization dedicated to researching the prevention, cures, and treatments of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alzheimer’s Research Foundation — privately-funded organization offering current news and net sources regarding the disease.
Alzheimer’s Research Trust — exclusively dedicated to promoting multi-disciplinary research into the causal mechanisms of neuro-generative disease, with the aim of treatment and prevention.
Alzheimer Page — from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in St. Louis.
Alzheimer Research Forum — non-profit organization established for the purpose of supporting the information needs of researchers and to promote openness and collaboration with colleagues worldwide.
Alzheimer Society Of Washington — offering resources for the special needs of persons with dementia, and addressing family caregivers and their needs.
Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study and Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center — University of California at San Diego
Alzheimer’s Outreach — contains description of a personal experience and information on a variety of topics.
American Health Assistance Foundation — funding research on age-related and degenerative diseases, educating the public about these diseases, and providing emergency financial assistance.
Elderly Place — Alzheimer’s specific with a personal guide for caregivers as well as links to various Alzheimer sites.
OHSU — Oregon Alzheimer’s Disease Centers
Oregon Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center — provides patient care and conducts basic research in aging and Alzheimer’s Disease.
San Francisco Alzheimer’s and Dementia Clinic — clinical institution devoted to the investigation, diagnosis, treatment and management of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Time Slips — an interactive storytelling project with people with Alzheimer’s disease. Contains sample stories.
Web Directory: Alzheimer’s Links Worldwide Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute (WAI) — aims to improve the quality of life for persons affected through research, education, training, program development, and public advocacy.
Worldwide Sharing — listing of ICQ and IRC numbers whose members are caregivers and want to network with others dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease.