Authentic stories of people’s lives are powerful. Details of family relationships, childhood memories, military service, work experiences, love and marriage, historical events, and just “everyday” life deserve to be captured and known. People are complicated. Listening and capturing their unique stories requires great care, but it is important and it makes a difference.
What does the life story reveal?
The life story shares the following critical information with family members, social services workers or other health care staff to improve quality of service and care:
1. What events shaped this person's life and personality?
2. What relationships were, and still are, most important?
3. What did this unique person accomplish and how can we acknowledge and celebrate that now?
4. Exactly what does he or she like to do, and where does he or she like to go? Personalizing conversations and activities is a key component in individualising care.
5. How can you make this person's day the best it can be? How can you bring simple comfort, joy and familiarity to this person by knowing more about him or her?
Reminiscing and engaging in storytelling supports quality of life and person-centered care. Pursue opportunities for all ages to come together for closeness and new friendships. It is important to engage and know unique, incredible people while we have the chance - in health care settings and with people living independently or with assistance at home. Take conversations to the next level instead of just talking about weather, health, sports or food. Instead, perhaps listen to stories about a childhood spent on a farm or dive into a conversation about a person’s engagement and wedding day. Ask about a person’s most memorable home, best friend or first job. The possibilities for new and more fascinating conversations are endless!
Capturing Life Stories is a Bridge to Address Loneliness
Social isolation and feelings of loneliness are impacting health. 31% of Americans report feeling lonely at least once a week, and in the United Kingdom, the issue is such a concern that a new Minister for Loneliness has been appointed. Astonishingly, 200,000 British seniors report they haven’t had a single conversation with a friend or a relative in more than a month!
Loneliness is a major health risk which can lead to a host of serious issues, including:
- Increased inflammation
- Less active immune system
- Higher blood pressure
- Substance abuse
- Higher rates of dementia
- Early death
Translated into real world action, there are numerous opportunities for organizations, agencies or families to connect through the power of telling and sharing life stories. From in-home interventions to ongoing engagements in senior centres, senior living or dementia care, life story resources can be accessible for individuals to utilise for themselves or with assistance from a family member or person in their care.
Recognizing that loneliness is a multi-pronged issue that will require innovative solutions is step one in combating isolation. Human beings are inherently social creatures. For thousands of years, people from diverse cultures around the world have passed on their traditions, beliefs and advice through the telling of stories and the sharing of life histories. Reminiscence is a therapeutic approach that can be used and accessed by everyone. Both the person sharing as well as those who are engaged in active listening benefit from this process. So much so, in fact, that we feel we can and will moving the needle on loneliness – one life story at a time.
Beth Sanders is the Founder & CEO of LifeBio, a company that helps people capture life stories in health care and in-home settings. She will speak at Naidex on the topic of The Power of Story to Connect and Reduce Loneliness.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on stand 13084 at Naidex.