Things to keep in mind for all concerned when introducing the life story:
• Why is it so important that the life story is written?
For the staff to know who the person has been and who they still are. In this way, they can respond to and support them as much as possible and based on the individual's wants, needs and wishes.
• Who is responsible for informing the care recipient, legal guardian and/or relatives?
The contact person for the care recipient is suitable for informing the care recipient and/or the relatives about the life story.
• How and when should the information be provided?
The life story should be gathered as early as possible in the course of the dementia . It is desirable that this takes place before the person moves into any accommodation, preferably when they receive home care services if applicable. This is especially so because a person with dementia may become suspicious at the questioning . It is best if the care recipient fills in the form themselves or does it together with relatives and friends. Trust and confidence are key to getting the best information especially as the person may not understand the purpose of writing their life story or may not want to do so. Working with the person with dementia and their family and friends a trusted worker can support the creation the Life Story. Sometimes the starting point can be changing the topic of conversation or suggesting an activity.
• Who writes the life story?
As previously mentioned, it is best if the care recipient fills in the form himself or herself or if he or she can do it together with relatives. However, it is quite unusual for the person to write. Usually it is the relatives who do it. The life story can differ somewhat depending on who in the family writes it. The different relatives have different experiences of and relationships with their relatives. The age and gender of the relatives and how often you meet your loved one can also affect what you write.
• How can it be used?
The life story can be used as a supplement to the implementation plan, something that is used in the daily work with a person with dementia. Another way to use it can be as a tool in connection with the supervision of staff; the life story can be useful because it allows staff to understand the whole person and who they are, rather than just focussing on the practical support that they need.. It is important that the implementation of the life story as a tool takes place at all levels in the care environment. The involvement of the care managers is very important in order to make it work. Using a Life Story is good practice and central to a person-centred approach. The format in which they are presented may vary depending in the care setting.
• Where should it be stored?
There are different options when it comes to storing the life story, but they all need to comply with GDPR legislation – check with your local Data Controller for more information. Any documents that come into or are drawn up in the activity must be stored in such a way that no unauthorised persons can gain access to it. This means that it, like other documents, must be stored in a lockable space. It could be in a personal file or an individual folder where there are more important notes about the person. Such a folder can be stored in the office or other common space for the staff, but always in a locked cupboard. This is the case even in sheltered accommodation or a day centre. But it is also important that it is easily accessible to staff as they should be able to use it in their daily work. In the home care service, there are several solutions. A folder that is stored at the individual's home should be kept in a cupboard or other place that reduces the risk of someone unauthorised accessing it. It is important to discuss with caregivers where it is best stored and care staff informed. It is good practice for all support workers involved in the person’s care to read the life story even if it more difficult to do so if it is stored at home.
When the care recipient dies, all information and the life story are archived in the personnel file . The relatives can also choose whether they want to keep the life story or whether it should be destroyed. Document the decision so that everyone is aware.
(B. Ragnarsdottir 2011)