As part of Told in South Yorkshire members of Darnall Dementia Trust were invited to participate in delivering a life story event at woodland view. This consisted of highlighting and demonstrating the importance of life story work and the different mediums that it can be expressed in.
In addition to learning about life story work the emphasis was on people living with dementia, carers and professionals coming together to share experiences and have a fun time.
Lisa Heller attended the day and wrote the following piece:
Knowing who we are and being known by others are fundamental elements in our lives. We begin to form an idea of who we are when we are very young, and as we grow into adulthood we gather experiences, friendships, successes and survivals which make us into the people we become, and form memories which inform ourselves and others of our sense of self.
In dementia, accessing these stored experiences and memories can be problematic and so it is possible to begin to lose a sense of self – of who we are as people. It is vital for a person with dementia that other people help them to retain a sense of who they are: where they came from, who are the important people in their lives, and what events have shaped them.
Life Story work can help people with dementia and their families and friends to retain a lively sense of who the person is, even when the person can no longer access their memories or tell their own story.
Through the use of pictures, words, and sometimes objects collected with the help of the person, their family and friends, a lasting record can be made which can be used by the person to help them remember, and by others to gain knowledge about the person. A shared exploration of the life story book can help care workers to understand a person and get to know them as the person they are, not just someone with memory problems who has suffered many losses.
Many different methods can be used to create a Life Story, and people can keep a book, album or file which will continue to be their own. It can be used and enjoyed at home and in the Day Centre, and can travel with the person. It can, for instance go with them if they enter a care home, when it can be used by the staff there to gain an understanding of who the person is.
‘It made me realise he was a real person’- This was said by a care worker who had been looking after a man with dementia for several months, when she first saw his life story book.
At Darnall Dementia Trust we work to find many different ways of upholding the person’s sense of self, and creating Life Story books is one way we have found enjoyable and successful. We also support the use of Life Story work in a wider field in collaboration with the University of Sheffield.
We have been working with Told in South Yorkshire, a group set up to promote the use of Life Story work with people with dementia and Darnall Dementia Trust continues to work with them to develop and deliver workshops and training on the use of Life Story work.
You can find out more about the Told in South Yorkshire group at www.toldinsouthyorkshire.co.uk