Our personality, likes and dislikes are shaped by our history. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, you know the relationship with the past can slowly fade. That’s why creating a life story for your loved one is an important part of their dementia care plan.
What is a life story? When your loved one has trouble communicating their wants and needs, a life story is a brief summary of their life that includes details about their background and interests. It can then be used by their caregivers to gain a better understanding of who your family member is on a deeper level, thus allowing them to provide more personalized care. Having a life story can:
- Help your loved one reflect on important information and strengthen their sense of identity.
- Bring them comfort by reminding them of special memories and other important life moments.
- Help family and friends develop a closer bond by knowing more about your loved one’s life.
- Provide caregivers a clearer understanding of your loved one’s life, preferences and needs. This is particularly helpful if they have a new caregiver, are moving into a senior care community, or are in the hospital.
Creating Your Loved One’s Life Story
Think about what you would want those caring for you to know about you, or what piece of your life story is important and meaningful to you. While everyone’s life story is unique, it’s helpful if a life story includes:
- Name including preferred name they be called, age and address
- Significant relationships with family and friends
- Childhood history
- Work history
- Significant places and life events
- Daily routine (ex: early riser vs. night owl)
- A favorite pet
- Humorous memories
- Involvement in a faith
- Emotional needs
- Preferences with their appearance
- Food/drink likes and dislikes
- Favorite music or television shows
- Activities they do and don’t enjoy
Note: When conducting a life story interview, rather than bombarding your loved one with a lot of questions, it may be better to say open-ended things like: “Tell me about your childhood.”
How to Share Life Stories
During the early stage of dementia, developing a life story can be a meaningful activity. If your loved one is in the middle or later stages, family or close friends will need to help. Once you have the information you need from the list above, some ways you can share life stories include:
- Photo collage or book: Choose meaningful photos from important times in your loved one’s life. Consider including family and friends, vacations, homes, pets and work projects.
- Movie: If your loved one has a bunch of slides and photos, you can create a video and add some audio for each picture.
- Memory boxes: Fill a box with laminated photos and other special items that you can go through together.
- Memory boards: This is typically a board with a calendar with important birthdays and anniversaries, as well as family and holiday pictures that can be changed on a regular basis.
- Music: Creating a music playlist of favorite tunes, songs, or music style can bring a smile or laugh and can ease anxiety. It’s also a great way to engage with your loved one if communication is difficult.
Your Loved One’s Story Continues at Heritage Senior Living
Our specially trained memory care staff members are on hand 24/7 to provide compassionate, individualized care while ensuring your loved one’s unique needs are met. To learn more about our memory care options at a community near you, contact us here.