Reasons to do life story work
- support identity
- increase self-esteem
- provide a safe haven in the chaos of life’s challenges
- offer opportunities for reciprocated conversations through shared experience
- shift the balance of power
- improve the continuity and the quality of care
- provide a place to express loss and to grieve
- celebrate individual lives
The Care Quality Commission recognizes the value of life story work as a tool for getting to know residents in care settings and respecting their individual preferences.
My work at a residential care home shows life story books are being used in exciting and unexpected ways to restore positive states of mind. One woman who becomes distressed at dusk is, within seconds, returned to a calm place when shown her book and engaged in conversation about her story. Another woman who has begun to sleep a lot during the day and is very difficult to rouse, is found to brighten and her posture straightens and she begins to converse when her story is read aloud to her. A man who has become very upset by his loss of memory is comforted by using his life story book as a reference for recorded memories. And there are observable differences in some of the group. One woman who was reluctant to join the group and left after a few minutes saying: ‘I’m not welcome’, was able, through skillful 1:1 support, to recount her experience of having her first child before she was married. Her family’s treatment towards her at the time had left many emotional scars. It’s not possible to put the transformation in her mood and confidence down to the life story project alone, but having the opportunity to have her story witnessed is a likely factor. On my last visit to the care home this woman walked through the lounge with a huge smile on her face, happily chatting to her carer. She looked so different I nearly didn’t recognise her!