Using Life Stories to Enhance Care

The Best Friends™ Life Story

Also at the core of Best Friends™ is the understanding that good Alzheimer’s care begins with acknowledgement of a person’s life story. Because people with dementia often can no longer tell us their histories, care providers must become their biographers, even if it means becoming a good detective. The more a care provider knows about a person, the more he or she can use the life story to improve interactions and care, including

  • Greeting the person and improving recognition
  • Introducing the person to others
  • Reminiscing
  • Improving communication through clues and cues
  • Designing appropriate activities
  • Pointing out past accomplishments
  • Helping to prevent challenging behaviors
  • Incorporating past daily rituals
  • Broadening the caregiving network and resources
Read the Best Friends recipe for documenting a person’s life story.

Read the authors’ suggestions for ways to use what you have learned about a person.


Getting to Know the Life Stories of Older Adults

This book is not about writing your life story but about sharing it and learning from others. The exercises in this book emphasize drawing out positive memories. The fastest way to build a bond with another person is to smile. And the second fastest is to find that you laugh at the same things. If we emphasize positive memories chances are good there will be lots of opportunities to laugh together.

The nine exercises in this book are almost completely scripted so that anyone reading the script can easily lead the exercise. Adaptations for people with dementia are provided for each exercise as well as in Appendix A. Those individuals should be given the opportunity to participate because they still have much to contribute—especially a wonderful sense of humor.

Use the questions in this Make a Choice handout to learn more about a person’s life story.

Use this time line to chart significant events in a person’s life.