Dignified Life, Revised and Expanded


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

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 and ExpandedThe Best Friends™ Approach to Alzheimer’s Care: A Guide for Care Part… by Health Professions Press

Virginia Bell, M.S.W., has spent a lifetime being a friend to humanity. Married to a minister, she nurtured and contributed generously to her community while raising their five children. Before her husband retired, Ms. Bell pursued a master’s degree in social work, which she completed in 1982 at age sixty from the University of Kentucky. She counseled families at the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and learned to appreciate the unique challenges faced by people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and their care partners. Her response was to establish the Helping Hand Adult Day Center (now the Best Friends Adult Day Center) in Lexington, Kentucky, to provide the kind of care she believed these families needed most. Ms. Bell has subsequently trained innumerable staff, students, and volunteers nationally and internationally in the center in the practices and attitudes that embody the Best Friends approach, contributing substantially to the center’s ongoing success.

She has earned awards for leadership in her community and in the Alzheimer’s field and has published four other books with her coauthor, David Troxel, about using the Best Friends approach in professional care settings (The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care; The Best Friends Staff: Building a Culture of Care in Alzheimer’s Programs; and The Best Friends Book of Alzheimer’s Activities, Volume 1 and Volume 2; all published by Health Professions Press).

Today, when she isn’t spending time with her family, which now includes twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, she is traveling around the nation and throughout the world bearing the good news that much can be done to improve the lives of those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

David Troxel, M.P.H.

With a long history in the field of public health, David Troxel, M.P.H., has dedicated his professional life to improving the well-being of the public at large and people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias specifically. After earning his master’s degree in public health, Mr. Troxel worked at the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, which at the time was one of only ten federally funded Alzheimer’s research centers in the country. It was there he met and began to collaborate with Virginia Bell to improve education and services in the state of Kentucky for people with dementia and their care partners. He was the first executive director of the Lexington/Bluegrass chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association (now called the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana chapter) and, together with Ms. Bell, he won an unprecedented four Excellence in Program Awards from the national Alzheimer’s Association for his chapter’s patient and family programs.

From 1994 to 2004, Mr. Troxel was Executive Director of the California Central Coast chapter (formerly the Santa Barbara & Ventura County chapters) of the Alzheimer’s Association, where he developed innovative dementia care programs with a dedicated staff and group of volunteers.

Today he works as a writer, speaker, and long-term care/dementia care consultant based in Sacramento, California. Mr. Troxel has also been a family caregiver, supporting his mother, Dorothy, who passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2008 after a ten-year journey with the disease.

In addition to the books he has co-written with Ms. Bell on their Best Friends philosophy, together they have written a series of influential journal articles on topics ranging from spirituality, to staff training and development, to person-centered care, including the widely reprinted Alzheimer’s Disease Bill of Rights. A well-traveled speaker and advocate, Mr. Troxel has inspired professionals around the world to start making sorely needed changes in the culture of care for the millions of people living with dementia.

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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