A new study has found that life story work has the potential to help people with dementia.

Life story work involves helping people to record aspects of their past and present lives along with future hopes and wishes, often in a book or folder or, increasingly, in music, film and multi-media formats.

The NIHR funded study found that many health and social care services in England now use life story work although the ways in which they do this vary considerably.

Researchers from the University of York compiled evidence on life story work in dementia care through a systematic literature review, in addition to listening first-hand to views of people with dementia, family carers and professionals through a series of focus groups. NHS REFRESH

Conducting a national survey of family carers and dementia service providers, along with an in-depth analysis of life story work in six care homes and four hospital wards, researchers tested the feasibility of doing a full scale evaluation of life story work in these settings.

The study concluded that life story work has the potential to help people with dementia, but a full scale evaluation is needed.

Kate Gridley, Research Fellow in York’s Social Policy Research Unit and Lead Researcher on the study, said: “People with dementia and their family carers have played a pivotal role in identifying nine key features of good practice in life story work. This includes not assuming that a person wants to do life story work, and respecting the person’s wishes about what goes into their life story and who will see it. However, these good practice approaches were not always followed.

“The study identified some improvements in staff attitudes towards people with dementia in care homes where they introduced life story work, and improvements in quality of life for some of the people with dementia, although the numbers were small.

“The cost of delivering life story work is relatively low, and staff felt that doing life story work encouraged interactions with family, and helped staff to get to know the person with dementia.”

The full report is available from the NIHR Journals Library.