Life Story Work May Help Improve Quality of Life for Dementia Patients

Patients with dementia who record their life stories may experience an improved quality of life, according to a new preliminary study led by researchers at the University of York’s Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU).  There is also evidence that working on the project together may help family members and caretakers develop more positive attitudes toward the dementia patients.

The study finds that in order to truly benefit from life story work, however, the patient should be interested in doing the project and should remain in control of what goes into it and who sees it.

Life story work (LSW) involves recording aspects of one’s past and present life along with future hopes and wishes, often in a book or folder or, increasingly, in music, film and multi-media formats.

The researchers found that many health and social care services in England now incorporate life story work, but the ways in which they do so vary considerably.

To gather evidence on life story work in dementia care, the researchers reviewed existing literature on the subject and also conducted a national survey of family caregivers and dementia service providers. They listened to firsthand accounts of people with dementia, family caregivers, and professionals through a series of focus groups and also conducted an in-depth analysis of life story work in six care homes and four hospital wards.

The study concluded that life story work has the potential to help people with dementia, but a full scale evaluation is needed.

“People with dementia and their family carers have played a pivotal role in identifying nine key features of good practice in life story work,” said lead researcher Kate Gridley, research fellow in SPRU.

“This includes not assuming that a person wants to do life story work, and respecting the person’s wishes about what goes into their life story and who will see it. However, these good practice approaches were not always followed.”

“The study identified some improvements in staff attitudes towards people with dementia in care homes where they introduced life story work, and improvements in quality of life for some of the people with dementia, although the numbers were small,” Gridley said.

“The cost of delivering life story work is relatively low, and staff felt that doing life story work encouraged interactions with family, and helped staff to get to know the person with dementia.”

Source: University of York