Dignified Life, Revised and Expanded

The Best Friends™ Approach to Alzheimer’s Care: A Guide for Care Partners

By Virginia Bell, M.S.W., and David Troxel, M.P.H.

ISBN 978-0-757-31665-4
284 pages
5.5 x 8.5 papercover
© 2012


If you or someone you love is affected by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you know the tremendous toll caregiving can take on your family. A Dignified Life offers you immediate hope and help with a more successful, positive approach to care partnering—an approach that is embraced around the world today.

Presenting the Best Friends™ model of care, A Dignified Life teaches you the “knack” of caregiving, which translates into doing difficult things with ease. You will learn how to work from a person’s strengths and become the trusted companion—the best friend—your loved one needs without sacrificing your own needs. Grounded in the latest research about dementia, this new edition offers a wealth of usable tips and problem-solving advice. Learn how to communicate effectively, redirect in positive ways, and implement many activity ideas to keep your loved one connected and engaged.

A Dignified Life, Revised and Expanded, gives you the support and advice you need to transform your care partner experience, including

  • Daily activities for early, middle, and late stages of the disease
  • Effective ways to manage challenging behaviors
  • Practical suggestions for navigating difficult family relationships
  • Latest recommendations about exercise, diet, and social interactions in preventing dementia, supporting brain health, and improving quality of life
  • Must-know advice on advance legal and health planning
  • Insight into professional caregiving options (in-home, respite care, adult day services, assisted living, nursing homes)

This revised edition offers caregivers an antidote to the burnout and frustration that often accompanies the role of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Rather than struggling through a series of frustrations and failures, A Dignified Life shows the new generation of caregivers and care partners how to bring dignity, meaning, and peace of mind to the lives of both those who have Alzheimer’s and dementia, and those who care for them.



1. What’s Happening? The Experience of Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementia

Learn about common emotions and experiences of persons with dementia and why the Best Friends approach so successfully addresses them.

2. What Is Known? Diagnosis, Treatment, and Research

Find answers to key questions about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.

3. What Now? Steps to Take After a Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementia

Begin mapping out your next steps and the best ways to tackle them after a diagnosis of an irreversible dementia has been made.


4. A New Start: The Art of Friendship

Discover how the elements of friendship provide a powerful new way to care for and relate to a person with dementia.

5. Memory Making: Honoring a Person’s Life Story

Collect the critical ingredients for creating a loving and constructive picture of the history and interests of your loved one, and then learn how to use this information in your everyday interactions.

6. The “Knack”: Basic Principles of Dementia Care

Discover the Elements of Knack—the skills that pave the way for successful caregiving— and see how to use them to handle common situations and problems that arise.

7. Connecting: Communicating with “Knack”

Use the Best Friends philosophy of communication to develop effective new tools for interacting with your loved one in everyday situations.

8. Being Together: Managing and Valuing Activities

Improve the quality of shared moments by making sure activities are meeting the needs of the person with dementia.

9. Inner Passage: Spiritual Journeying and Religion

Explore the possibilities for providing experiences that nurture the spirit throughout the course of the disease.

10. Finding Help: Navigating the Journey

Understand that you aren’t expected to do it all and learn about the range of services you can access to support your caregiving efforts.


11. Self-Care: Being Your Own Best Friend

Make sure you are taking care of yourself and replenishing your own reserves, even while caring for another.

12. Transformations

See, finally, that it is possible to transform the many challenges of dementia into rewarding experiences and that the person can live a dignified life.

Organizations, Websites, and Recommended Readings
About the Authors

A Dignified Life, Revised a… by on Scribd

Virginia BellVirginia Bell, M.S.W., was one of the most influential thought leaders in the field of dementia care over the last four decades, who continued right up to the time of her passing in 2023 to improve the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers. Her Best Friends™ model of dementia care transforms attitudes in care institutions and among families about a debilitating disease. An author, speaker, and advocate, her work has profoundly influenced the lives of untold individuals, and her Best Friends approach to dementia care continues to be adopted world-wide by care programs.

She lectured widely on Alzheimer’s disease at national and international conferences, speaking at the National Education Conferences of the Alzheimer’s Association and lecturing at the conferences of Alzheimer’s Disease International. She has published journal articles and book chapters, notably in Dementia Care: Patient, Family and Community (John Hopkins, 1989). Many of her articles have been reprinted numerous times: “The Alzheimer’s Disease Bill of Rights” (1994), “The Other Face of Alzheimer’s Disease” (1999) and “Spirituality and the Person with Dementia” (2001), co-authored with David Troxel and published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and in Alzheimer’s Care Quarterly. She has also co-authored six books with David Troxel, beginning with The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care. She received her M.S.W. from the University of Kentucky in 1982.

David TroxelBased in northern California, David Troxel, M.P.H., is nationally and internationally known for his expertise in the fields of dementia & long-term care. He has co-authored (with Virginia Bell) six influential books, including his newest book, and written numerous articles relating to dementia care and staff development and training. He is a writer, trainer, and long-term care consultant who has spoken at over 500 conferences including keynote presentations at various U.S., Canadian, and international conferences. He served for a decade as the Executive Director of the Santa Barbara (California) Alzheimer’s Association (1994-2004). He also helped support his mother, Dorothy, in her 10-year journey living with Alzheimer’s disease. David’s areas of expertise include best care practices for persons with dementia, caregiver support, staff training, and long-term care program development. More information about David’s work can be found on his website at www.bestfriendsapproach.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bestfriendsapproach. 

1 review for Dignified Life, Revised and Expanded

  1. Administrator

    A Dignified Life is a compassionate, well-written and extremely valuable resource. Using the Best Friends approach outlined in the book, caregivers are provided with a wide range of practical tools and strategies for how to deal with the many challenges of coping with this difficult disease. I highly recommend A Dignified Life both for professionals and family caregivers.”
    —Ken Dychtwald, PhD, CEO and founder of Age Wave

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