Friday, June 23, 2017

Keys to Succesful Communication in Dementia Care

Dementia Changes People

Your loved one or resident is changing.  Your once gregarious, “life of the party” spouse is now reticent and restrained.  Your college educated, thoughtful father is now forgetful and impulsive.  And – perhaps the hardest situation of all – your once gentle and caring mother has begun to angrily lash out at caregivers, friends, and even family.  The manner in which you once communicated with these individuals is no longer effective.  Comprehensive dementia care must consist of a new, inclusive way to share information with those individuals with Alzheimer’s and other memory affective disorders.

It’s Important To Stay Positive

One of the basic tenets of interacting with people with dementia is to stay positive.  This can be hard!  Your resident or loved one may feel anxious or unsure of themselves or their surroundings.  However, it is important that you stay calm and be as reassuring as you can.  One way of doing this is to have a handful of topics at the ready that you know the individual finds to be soothing.  Talking about a favorite vacation, a beloved pet, or a special collection can help keep the conversation low key and pleasant for everyone.  Remember, touchpoints for this person are likely founded on events from their past, so knowing these details can be especially helpful.

KISS = Keep It Simple!

Persons with dementia are easily distracted – a blaring television or radio, loud noises from the hallway or another room, even traffic outside can often derail a conversation.  Whenever possible, limit as many of these distractions as you can.  Try to interact in as quiet an environment as possible.  Speak slowly and clearly.  Use your resident or loved one’s name often.  When you talk, keep your voice level and do not yell or shout.  Use specific place and people names to ground the conversation and help keep the focus on the topic at hand.  

The Five Senses Approach

When communicating with a person with dementia, it can help to have non-verbal props to assist you.  Personal items, pictures, or photographs can be shown to the individual to refresh memories.  A special playlist comprised of a favorite musician or a preferred musical genre can help you break through the communication barrier.   The use of a therapy animal (real or mechanical) appeals to the need to touch or stroke an object.  Even the sense of smell can be extremely evocative!  A favorite perfume or aftershave, or even a fragrant bouquet, can revive long-lost stories and act as a great conversation starter.

Building a Dementia Care Tool Kit

An effective dementia care plan should include a wide variety of tools.  Activities can help your resident or loved one to enjoy doing or talking about things from their past that continue to give them joy.  Look for opportunities for the individual to be of assistance – tasks such as sweeping or vacuuming can make them still feel useful and give them purpose.  Tending to a garden can be relaxing and fulfill a desire to be out-of-doors.  Using prompting memory cards or creating an autobiography can create a sense of personal accomplishment, while also crafting a legacy to share with friends, family, and caregivers.  


Be patient with your resident or loved one, and use your “listening ears.”  Give them time to form an answer.  Accept their responses and do not try to correct them or convince them that they are wrong.  Facts and figures may be confused or jumbled in their mind, and focusing on who is “right” can be upsetting.  To truly be successful when caring for a person with dementia, you must dig in and discover what is most meaningful to the individual.  When you know the person deeply, genuine and meaningful conversation results, supporting the individual’s care and well-being in a nurturing, holistic way.  Remember to relax and enjoy your conversation.  It should be a pleasurable experience for both of you – and that’s a true win-win for everyone involved! 

To learn more about all of the dementia care products 
offered by LifeBio, please visit us online here, email us, or call 1-937-303-4576

Friday, June 16, 2017

Front Porch Leads the Pack in Innovation!


For over a decade, has helped tens of thousands of people tell their life stories using our online platform, which guides the user through a series of biographical questions, then allows the individual to create his or her very own book.  In addition to serving the consumer, however, it has been the great privilege of LifeBio to assist senior living communities across the nation capture and preserve the biographical information of their residents, which staff and volunteers can use to focus their person-centered care plans to meet the unique needs of each individual.  


Recently, LifeBio received some feedback from Front Porch ( explaining how they used the LifeBio tool kit in an entirely new and innovative way!  Project Specialist Julie Santos from the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) shared the following:

Today we had our employee appreciation event. As a nice touch, we incorporated LifeBio Story Cards around the table to enable some engaging conversations we normally would not have with our colleagues. At our table, for example, we had conversations about vacations. Following that we had a question about gardening, and we stuck with that topic for a while. 

Then, the conversation turned around when someone talked about how her neighborhood growing up used to be an olive grove. I also heard feedback from another table. They had conversations about their favorite memories of their siblings. There was plenty of chatter in the room!


Julie also shared these beautiful photos from the day’s events, and the attention to detail that was put into making the occasion extra special for everyone involved is evident:


What a wonderful and creative way to get to know the people you work with!  After all, you SHARE over forty hours per week with these folks.  Shouldn’t you get to know them? applauds the network of Front Porch communities for thinking outside the box – and for deeply sharing not just with their residents, but with one another, too! 


For more information about www.LifeBio, our products and services, please contact us at:

Or call 1-866-543-3246
Or visit

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

How to Help Someone with Metastatic Cancer

This topic is on my mind because I am thinking of two friends with metastatic cancer, and I know that everyone can think of someone facing cancer in their lives. In both cases, these two people are under the age of 50 and they have young children or children in their early years of adulthood.  I suppose that's why I want to write about this because I am also at a similar phase of my life with my family.  I cannot pretend to understand what these friends are going through, but I can imagine that I would be very fearful and sad to think about my children coping without me.  There would be so much I would want to say now and in the future to them. He or she should be given the chance to record stories, memories, and advice. Encourage him or her to do so---it is a priceless gift and it should not be delayed. Despite very good treatment plans, it is a smart idea, whether someone is perfectly healthy or facing cancer, to capture life stories and key wisdom. They can also share the journey through treatment and document a "survivor story" too.  You can help with a digital recorder or video on your phone or any other method that is convenient to you and your family and friends.

If the person may need more help or you're worried that you would rather have assistance with the story recording, LifeBio is here with our main purpose of helping thousands of people say what matters most to their families and friends. LifeBio asks biography questions or survivor story questions that help elicit the important things that need to be said. Sometimes it takes the form of a one hour or two hour phone interview and then it is transcribed and turned into a Legacy the audio is uploaded and accessible for the family to listen to again someday.  Others have used our online system at to type out their memories (sign up and try it for free), following the questions provided. Still others have used the Memory Journal book as something they can carry with them and fill out while they are in waiting rooms or just when there is a little quiet time.  Family and friends can assist with the typing of the story or the writing in a book, of course.  If a shorter process is needed, other options are available that could be completed quickly.

Please let us know if we can help you help someone with metastatic cancer. We are here for the primary reason to help those with life threatening illnesses or those reaching advanced age.  You can reach us at 1-866-LIFEBIO or 937-303-4576 or email  See more at

Research Roundup on Reminiscence and Life Review

For thousands of years, people from diverse cultures around the world have passed on their traditions, beliefs, and advice through the telling of stories. When writing a life story or writing an autobiography or just sharing some key memories with family or friends, stories….

explained lessons of life
how to survive in difficult circumstances
why things have happened the way they have
and offered tales of great adventure, tragedy, or love.
People reminisce for these eight reasons according to Dr. Jeffrey Webster who documented the Reminiscence Function Scale: 1) Teach/Inform; 2) Conversation; 3) Boredom Reduction; 4) Death Preparation; 5) Identity; 6) Problem Solving; 7) Intimacy Maintenance; 8: Bitterness Revival.

In addition to the wisdom passed down, we now know that reminiscence and life review is a proven way for older adults to gain self worth, learn more about themselves, and give the gift of their stories to the next generation. Recalling life stories or even writing an autobiography should be encouraged at any juncture in one’s life, but primarily as people reach end of life.

There are a number of studies that have shown that reminiscence and life review affects people’s lives in extraordinary ways. We will explore some of the outcomes from those studies.

Why Reminiscence is an Important Part of Healthy Aging

Over 100 studies in the last decade prove that reminiscence is an important part of healthy aging and wellness. Sources: Critical Advances in Reminiscence Work, Jeffrey Webster and Barbara Haight, 2003. Transformational Reminiscence, John Kunz and Florence Gray Soltys, 2007. Reminiscence and life review has been found to:

Increase life satisfaction
Lower or prevent depression
Engage people with dementia
Promote social interaction
Reduce chronic pain
Assist with cognitive orientation
Improving staff/resident/family relations
Reminiscence and Wellness Work Hand in Hand

Studies have shown that older adults experience remarkable results when reminiscence and life review is encouraged.

Decreases Disorientation, Improves Social Interaction

A study demonstrated it is possible for older people with dementia to reminisce and that this is meaningful for them in particular, because of the losses associated with dementia. Another related case study used life review with groups of people with Alzheimer’s disease. They were assigned to groups with some participating in life reviews and others did not. Results showed significance for life review groups in decreased disorientation and improvement in social interaction.

Increases Life Satisfaction

With female nursing home residents, a study randomly assigned participants to a reminiscence group, current events discussion, or no treatment group. The results showed significant increases in life satisfaction in the reminiscence group.

Improves Resident/Staff Relations

Nursing home residents were interviewed with and without staff present and in either a reminiscence/life review format or a format more focused on the present time. The attitudes of residents toward staff improved with reminiscence and with the staff’s presence at interview.

Reduces Geriatric Depression

Newly relocated nursing home residents underwent a study to examine if life review could prevent clinical depression. Significant positive results were shown in reducing depression at the short-term testing stage with an additional decrease in depression and hopelessness at one year.

Increases Orientation, Competence After Relocation

A case study examined the use of a life review program with newly-relocated nursing home residents and it was found to decrease depression, while increasing orientation, perceived competence, and social interaction.

Increases Sense of Purpose and Meaning

After group therapy with older adults in long-term care setting over an 8-week period, this study found that the two treatment groups were significantly different from control group showing increased sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.

Is the Telling of Life Stories Key to Human Development?

Noted psychologist Erik Erickson examined human development by looking at the conflicts we face at each stage of life.

In Middle Adulthood (40s and 50s), we are most concerned with Generativity (vs. Stagnation). Generativity, when it is developed, is the establishment and nurture of the next generation. Through stories, we help the next generation know what matters most and seek the best for their lives. There is a concern and commitment to family that’s passed on. Storytelling is vital for building generativity.

In Later Adulthood (60 years-74 years), Erickson documents the psychosocial crisis as Ego Integrity (vs. Despair). Ego integrity is the ego's accumulated assurance of its capacity for order and meaning. Despair is signified by a fear of one's own death, as well as the loss of self-sufficiency, and of loved partners and friends. At this stage, the central task for people to pursue is introspection because they must decide what will make their lives fulfilling and come together in a community. This stage can result in a development and sharing of wisdom—especially through storytelling.

In Later Adulthood, we’re concerned with life but facing the fact that death will come. According to Erickson, people in this stage of life should have new intellectual challenges and take on new roles and activities. Writing one’s autobiography fits the bill by providing that challenge but also giving them a chance for the necessity of introspection. Through life review, they may also decide, “What’s my next pursuit?”

In Old Age (75 Years-Death), the psychosocial crisis is Immortality (vs. Extinction). This phase is focused on reflecting back on life. In this phase of life, Erickson cites the positive outcomes of life review, accepting death with a sense of integrity and without fear. Those who are successful in this phase do review and feel proud of their accomplishments and have a strong sense of integrity. Those who are unsuccessful during this phase will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets—leading to bitterness and despair. The developmental task, according to Erickson, is to cope with the physical changes of aging while seeing the “big picture” of life. Through reflection, individuals will see and know their own wisdom.

Autobiography = Chocolate? What the Experts Say...

Dr. Robert Butler, author of Why Survive? Being Old in America, coined the term “life review” fifty years ago. Before that time, researchers and physicians saw reminiscence as just a stepping stone toward senility and dementia. He disagreed with this belief and proposed that, as people age, reminiscence and life review were a normal part of healthy aging. Now large bodies of research show the positive outcomes from reminiscence and life review.
Dr. Gene Cohen, author of The Mature Mind, saw reminiscence as a critical brain activity and he remarked, “Autobiography for older adults is like chocolate for the brain.” Cohen cited a 2003 study by Eleanor Maguire and Christopher Frith that performed brain scans on people in their 70s and in their 30s while they were reminiscing. The found that the entire hippocampus is “lit up” in older adults, while 30 year olds only utilize one small part of the left hippocampal region.
Dr. Andrew Weil, author of Healthy Aging, encourages older adults to keep a record of wisdom, values, and life lessons in an ethical will, or heartfelt letter to loved ones. He writes, "An ordinary will … concerns the disposition of one's material possessions at death. An ethical will has to do with nonmaterial gifts: the values and life lessons that you wish to leave to others…At critical points in your life, take your ethical will and read it over. Add to it. Revise it and share it with people you care about. An ethical will helps you organize your own experience and focus on who you are. It's a spiritual inventory about what you want to pass on to others." Life stories can lead to a letter from the heart.
Reminiscence Touches All Seven Dimensions of Wellness:

Physical - The hippocampus is “lit up” in 70-year-old subjects who were monitored while reminiscing, promoting brain fitness in this way.

Social – Assists people in getting to know one another whether they are new neighbors or already friends.

Emotional – Empowers people to review their accomplishments and remember the joys and challenges of life.

Vocational – Helps older adults have a job to do by giving the gift of their wisdom and values to their children, grandchildren, or other loved ones.

Spiritual – Explore and see the “big picture” of their lives and explore one’s spirituality and beliefs.

Environmental – Improves the environment of elders by surrounding them with people who see more as people and less as patients.

Intellectual – Provides ample opportunities for learning about one’s self and exploring creativity through personal or group storytelling.

Background on Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Over 5 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s Disease today. Alzheimer’s Disease is now the 7th leading cause of death. More than 50 percent of residents in assisted living and nursing homes have some form of dementia or cognitive impairment, and the numbers continue to increase. The national Alzheimer’s Association has a number of recommendations for caring for people whether they live in a community setting or their own home. Social interaction is critically important and people facing with dementia do have a need for meaningful activities that build a sense of community and are fun. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that families and the person with dementia should summarize the individuals’ life story including past experiences, personal preferences, and current capabilities.

Number of People with dementia (Alzheimer’s Association)

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia affecting people over age 65.

“The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease is growing — and growing fast. An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer's disease in 2016. Of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer's, an estimated 5.2 million people are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer's). One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer's disease. By mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.

These numbers will escalate rapidly in coming years, as the baby boom generation has begun to reach age 65 and beyond, the age range of greatest risk of Alzheimer's. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease may nearly triple, from 5.2 million to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease. Previous estimates based on high range projections of population growth provided by the U.S. Census suggest that this number may be as high as 16 million.”

What is Retrogenesis and Why Does it Matter

Dr. Barry Reisberg developed the term “retrogenesis” to describe the changes that Alzheimer’s patients experience. People experience life in reverse order, regressing toward childhood. They may lose the ability to manage their checkbook, dress themselves, bathe regularly, control their bladder and bowels, or speak-- reversing the order in which those skills were acquired as a child. Because events from childhood will resurface potentially as time passes, the importance of knowing past events through understanding a person’s life story —both positive or negative times of life—can be useful in delivering the best quality of care. Seeing the elder as a person who is moving backwards in time may help explain different behaviors and lead to understanding and love instead of criticism and ridicule.

Recommendations for Those That Work in Memory Care

Know the person’s life story – with the help of this person and his or her family members – in order to connect and cue them. The person will have a sense of comfort when they feel that they are known and understood, and it will help caregivers be more confident and patient.
Hold attention for short periods of time to gather memories. Asking just one question and listening intently for the answer…or giving the person choices for their answer may be helpful. “Tell me about a tree when you were a kid. Did you have an apple tree or a maple tree or another kind of tree?” Group settings may be ineffective when doing personal reminiscence work.
Use all the senses to the fullest – bring object associated reminiscence works. Bringing a branch of a tree, a leaf, or a pine cone will help prompt a memory of a tree when the person was younger.
Try “Outside the box” activities. Watching you do activities is okay too. Would a former scientist or professor enjoy watching or participating in a science experiment? Could someone who had a horse like to see children getting pony rides? If the life story is recorded, with the senior enjoy someone reading their stories to them and looking at the pictures?
LifeBio’s MemoryBio—a resource with over 200 photos and questions ready for a life enriching activity to prompt discussions (digital and physical product).
Involve families because they should see reminiscence as an important part of ensuring quality of care and quality of life. If we don’t know someone, we can’t care as much for them. Knowing more details can allow us to connect in a more meaningful way.
Ensure there is genuine, loving one-on-one communication. Elders with memory impairment still know when they are being ignored or patronized in a conversation. Truly listening is a gift you can give to those with dementia—even if some things or all things don’t make sense.

“I truly believe that true person-centered care only happens when people feel they are deeply loved and valued in their community—whether they are staff members or residents. When people know more about each other (through sharing those unique and personal life stories), they can really become as close as family…maybe even closer. I know we can reach a new level of caring. Individual’s stories become like gold—especially as one ages and experiences loss. When older adults finally are given an opportunity to have someone really listen and help record their stories and wisdom, they feel a new sense of peace and happiness. What a gift.”

--Beth Sanders, Founder & CEO,

The Impact of Reminiscence Programming
on Overall Operations in Senior Living or Health Settings

With the continuing evolution of person-centered care and the importance of achieving quality by providing more individualized approaches in active adult, assisted living, skilled nursing, CCRC, and home care settings, communities have an increasing interest in reminiscence and life review programming and see the potential impact on overall operations.

In competitive markets, current or prospective residents and their loved ones have very high expectations for service that, in turn, require the community’s staff to have an even deeper knowledge of each person’s background, events, and values in order to meet and exceed these expectations. At the core, relationships matter—whether meeting a person for the first time, speaking with a family member, in everyday interactions, or when facing end of life.

The community sees a life story program as a critical part of person-centered care or their culture change journey. They do NOT see a life story program as just an activity but it becomes part of the process for admissions, marketing, social work, and even nursing care. Upfront training of staff members ensures the program’s success and helps it reach as many participants as possible.

The elder community involves the community at large as much as possible. Family members, students, and volunteers are easily plugged into the process, trained, and empowered to tell a resident’s story. Communities use all different types of media to meet the needs of their residents including a book of questions everyone can use, a web-based system, video/audio recording options, and one-on-one and group activities. Flexibility and an ongoing commitment from all levels of management, and especially executive management, are keys to success.

"All too often we learn all of these wonderful things about our residents at their memorial service after it’s too late. We need to learn more about who they really are while we have the opportunity--when we are lucky enough to be chosen as their caregivers. We need to build on the relationship between caregivers and elders. What better way to accomplish this than by helping them write their life stories?”

-- Donna G. Life Enrichment

There are a number of ways that focusing on the life stories of residents leads to improvements in the overall operations of a community:


Reminiscence is found to touch all dimensions of wellness. In addition, as the life story is learned, it helps to improve relationships between staff and residents. It is important to promote engagement and ensure people are not just focusing on physical fitness but on overall wellness.

Social Wellness – connecting people to promote friendship, seeing what they have in common
Spiritual Wellness – seeing the “big picture” of life and the importance of faith and values
Emotional Wellness – exploring the joys and challenges, strength from overcoming obstacles
Intellectual Wellness – learning about one’s own life and the life of peers, writing, sharing
Physical Wellness – reminiscence found to lower physical pain and feelings of depression
Vocational Wellness – recording life stories gives people an important life pursuit

Genetics plays an important role in successful, active aging and wellness, and the choices people make every day are critical too. Cognitive stimulation matters, but the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives also noted that physical exercise, diet, social connections, how we manage stress, and seeing the self and the world in a positive way are also important too.

Dr. Robert Butler, author of Why Survive? Being Old in America, coined the term “life review” fifty years ago. Before that time, researchers and physicians saw reminiscence as just a stepping stone toward senility and dementia. He disagreed with this belief and proposed that, as people age, reminiscence and life review were a normal part of healthy aging. Now large bodies of research show the positive outcomes from reminiscence and life review.


Reminiscence is believed to stimulate the hippocampus area of the brain where memories are stored. Reminiscence and recording the life stories are critical for people experiencing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The detailed information gathered could be vital to current and ongoing delivery of service and care.

Going the extra mile in providing the best possible tools for brain fitness and memory care could make the difference between someone living independently and someone needing higher, costlier levels of nursing care.

Personal interaction matters too in promoting positive brain health. “There’s a lot of evidence that other people are the most unpredictable things you can encounter. So activities that have you engaging with other human beings are a fantastic form of brain exercise.” said Lawrence Katz, Neurobiologist.


Communities are expanding their services with home and community-based services and hospice. Companionship services offered in non-medical home care can be enhanced by providing reminiscence tools to use with clients. During the time spent visiting, there is the chance to do something meaningful and life changing by reminiscing and recording the older person’s life story—a priceless gift to the family. Providing simple ways for people in hospice care to create an ethical will or to answer at least a few autobiographical questions is much appreciated when it is possible.

“I wish I would have known that about him when he was alive,” is too often a refrain heard after staff (and even family members) attend a memorial service. Knowing more about someone’s life can lead to appreciating the whole person’s life journey. This person was a child, a teenager, a worker, a parent, and a grandparent. They experienced joys and challenges through the years. As staff members see the common experiences and feelings and amazing life events in clearer view, it commonly improves service and care. In addition, learning more about the person’s past can only lead to more compassion at the end of life. Life review typically helps the dying person experience more love, more hope, and more peace when they are reminded of their accomplishments, their family relationships, their beliefs, and more.


Not every community today offers a comprehensive, consistent reminiscence program—therefore this innovative approach differentiates communities from their competitors and demonstrates a very high level of caring. As in-depth life stories are captured, there are a number of great publicity opportunities that result via newspaper, TV, radio, and online. In some progressive communities, the waiting list members or prospects are even invited to participate on campus in autobiography writing classes to build relationships between current residents and people who may be making a decision about moving to the community soon.


Reminiscence provides interesting lifelong learning classes and fun activities that can be easily adapted for independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, adult day services, or memory care. The key to excellence is breaking out of standard activity patterns and the “same old, same old” conversation patterns where weather, health, sports, and food topics dominate. Expanding communication builds new, genuine friendships and a dynamic environment. Conversations should move to a rich mix of topics -- personal accomplishments, childhood memories, historical events, hobbies, values, and aspects of daily life that this person has always loved. Innovative communities are being intentional about relationship building. Reminiscence activities take on a new dimension when they include recording the personal memories for the resident and his or her family as well. Writing in a journal, giving residents online access to type a memoir, or pairing them with a student are all options. Also, residents in many communities can lead reminiscence classes or serve in a leadership role in the overall reminiscence program. Former teachers, social workers, or clergy are excellent facilitators of autobiography classes.


Family members struggle to know what to say when they visit. Reminiscence tools help them have a reason and structure for visiting. Adult or youth volunteers are involved in capturing memories and building relationships with residents in nursing homes or assisted living. It is a “win-win” situation when residents can volunteer to share their life stories and middle or high school students can volunteer to help in the recording process via the web, in journals, on storyboards, or through video. Youth are mentored by the older adult in the process, learning important communication skills along the way.


Because of the numerous opportunities for employees to volunteer as part of a community reminiscence program OR because the community-at-large can be provided with free presentations, such as a “Tell Your Story” workshop, there are a number of ways that a senior living community can give back to their neighborhood, city, county, church partners, etc. Non-profit retirement communities can reach out to in-home caregivers, YMCAs, and other senior services and community-based organizations to provide free informational sessions on recording a biography to help in building relationships, keeping people engaged in the community, and touching all dimensions of wellness.


Attracting and keeping the best talent is always a struggle. Many people who enjoy working in long-term care or community settings had positive experiences with older adults in their lives when they were in their youth. The potential is there for a new generation to gain immensely from the wisdom and experience of older adults—and to choose a career serving older people as a result. With the growth in the aging population, this is vital for the future. In addition, communities that build genuine relationships between staff and residents typically experience lower turnover.


Organizations and communities should consider the beneficial outcomes from incorporating a reminiscence program. Although every community is different, positive results from capturing life stories should be expected.

For more information on Life Bio’s programs for elder communities and community-based organizations, please call 1-866-LIFEBIO or email us at Please request an information packet on how to implement LifeBio in your community.

Alzheimer’s Association -
Webster, Jeffrey & Haight, Barbara. Critical Advances in Reminiscence Work. Springer Publishing. (2002)
Weil, Andrew. Healthy Aging. (2005)
Dementia Care Practice Recommendations for Assisted Living Residences and Nursing Homes. Alzheimer’s Association. (2006).

Friday, December 02, 2016

My name is Katie, and I was born in 1923...

My name is Katie, and I was born in 1923 in Tevel, Hungary. As a little girl, my family lived on a homestead. We had ten acres and it was called “existence” farming, because we could exist on those ten acres. We had two vineyards, all kinds of fruit, berries, vegetables, and an herb garden. Everything was organic. My father was a hunter, farmer, and beekeeper, and we had everything! We didn’t have any money, but we were rich!
When I was three years old, I went to stay with my grandmother while my dad built a new house. I remember vividly that she had a big book with beautiful pictures. I would say, “Grandma, let me see the picture book!” She called her book “The Key to Heaven.” I was so amazed by those pictures that I remember them to this day. I didn’t know it was a German Bible; I found that out later on. This Bible was in her family since before World War I. There were only two Bibles in our town of 500 families because when Hungary was ruled by Dukes, all the Bibles were burned.
When I was 15 years old, my future husband (Paul) went to my father and asked to marry me. My father said he would have to talk to Paul’s parents. The parents all went out to dinner without us, and talked it over, and decided that we should be engaged! We were married in 1940; I was 17 and Paul was 19. In our town, the oldest son always stayed with his family, and so I went to live with Paul and his parents in their family home. We were happily married for two years, and then Hitler came.
In 1942, Hitler came into Hungary, and Paul went into the army. While he was gone, the Russians came through our country. They took all our property away from us. Government officials came and told us that we were being sent to clean up because of the damage done by all the bombing. They took all the young people and put us in stock cars, and the next thing we knew we were in Russia! In Russia, they put us to work in the coal mines, and our families back home didn’t even know if we were dead or alive! I labored in the coal mines for five years until the Russians let us go.
When I got back to Hungary, I had no home any more. Hitler took everything away from my family. My in-laws were in East Germany, and my husband, Paul, was in West Germany. I went to West Germany to find him. When I finally found Paul, he was living in a one-room apartment over a pigsty. West Germany was double hell for me because they treated us so bad. There was no other place to go, though, because there was no work.
My husband had an uncle living in Milwaukee, so in 1952 we decided to come to America. We had two little children by then, and we made it onto the last boat coming over. I got so seasick! When we got here, we both found work in a tannery that we could walk to from our apartment. It stunk so bad, but I worked there for three years, until we could buy a house.
That’s my life. I am 93 now, and I have seen so many miracles. To me, America is the promised land!
Katie L., Wisconsin #lifebiostories #LifeBio #realstoriesofamerica #sharewithus
NOTE: Katie was interviewed by a Personal Biographer at and her story is being published in a Legacy Book for her family and friends.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Storytelling for Health and Wellbeing

Storytelling is powerful and it is natural. Why should it be encouraged?  Because it is also good for people's health and sense of wellbeing.  

Here is how LifeBio sees reminiscence touching ALL dimensions of wellness, and why it cannot be ignored as a tool to use with seniors at home, in senior living, assisted living, nursing homes, or with those who have memory challenges. Besides unlocking a fascinating story, it leads to an amazing opportunity for engagement. 

  • Physical – Activate the hippocampus area of brain where memories are stored. "Autobiography for older adults is like chocolate for the brain," said Dr. Gene Cohen in a conversation with Beth Sanders, Founder of LifeBio
  • Spiritual – Deeply touch people as they share beliefs, values, life lessons, etc. 
  • Occupational – This gives people an important job to do. Creating a LEGACY. 
  • Emotional – Joys and challenges are recorded and shared.  LifeBio has been found to increase happiness and satisfaction with life.  “Get it off your chest.”   
  • Environmental -  Life stories build a strong sense of community. 
  • Intellectual – Life stories help people learn about themselves and about other people.  Fascinating new knowledge and people learn to listen.
  • Social –  People form new bonds with their neighbors and become friends through the power of story.  
    Want to start a storytelling project in your community?  Call LifeBio at 937-303-4576 or email

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Writing a Story Online -- The Life Story Made Easier Than Ever Before

It is amazing when a person's life story can be built online. For many people, it is the only way to go, especially for those that want to avoid like the plague just staring at a blank sheet of paper wondering where to start.  Why not use the power of a website to write your life story online

Instead of asking "What questions do I ask myself?" An online biography system is asking you the most relevant questions about your family history, childhood memories, historical/life events that impacted you, adulthood topics, and beliefs and values.  There is a LOT to cover and whole topics may be missed if you're not careful...leaving unanswered questions for your family someday.

The beauty of an online biography system is that it can provide numerous topics to write about and the online user can "skip around" to the biography topic that is most relevant.  In fact, in a system like LifeBio, it will even instantly build a table of contents as topics are answered and keep everything in a very logical order anytime you want to preview how the finished document is coming together. 

Also, there is ample room to say as much or as little as you want.  This certainly is better than a physical journal with questions that might only provide 1 page or 1/2 a page for answers. 

Writing a life story online is important for both you and your family.  They want to know you (and they don't want regrets because they didn't record your story).  You want to create a lasting legacy--they should know you!  This is your chance to say what matters most to the people you love. 

It's as easy as coming to and signing up for free. Start a BIOGRAPHY and watch an amazing story begin to unfold.  We suggest you upgrade to full membership but start with your free "lite" account and see how it goes.  If you have any questions about writing a story online, please call 937-303-4576 or email  LifeBio -- It's time to tell your story!   -- Beth Sanders, Founder

Friday, November 20, 2015

Reminiscence Therapy: Effective for a Number of Reasons

I remember visiting Judy's back porch in her memories.  She pointed to her father who was sitting to her left and her brother who was drinking lemonade at the table.  In the distance, she smelled and saw the pink rhododendron bushes and she felt the breeze in the air.  Her mother was preparing food in the kitchen and a picnic on the porch was about to begin. It was like we were there, and, for Judy, we were there.  We were visiting this sweet memory together.  I also could feel that Judy didn’t really want to come back right away.  That was okay. She was truly enjoying the moment....and so was I as the listener.  
Using memories and life stories as a therapeutic tool is not a new concept, but new methods are making it far easier for anyone to have the opportunity to not only reminisce but to record the key information. Reminiscence is now being used in senior living and health care settings from coast to coast. It's a growing trend to know more about people in care settings of all types, and knowing a person's story is a very good starting point---plus reminiscence therapy works.  
The sights and sounds of long-ago events and experiences can be revisited when someone is reminiscing.  It is a powerful thing.  I've seen work hundreds of times in over 10 years of life story work -- especially in senior care and health care settings.  
Reminiscing has been found to lower pain, increase happiness and life satisfaction (LifeBio study with Iowa State University, 2014), promote ego integrity (Haight, Michel, & Hendrix, 2000), enhance psychological well-being (Chiang, Lu, Chu, Chang, & Chou, 2008), improve personal meaning (Westerhof, Bohlmeijer, van Beljouw, & Pot, 2010), increase life satisfaction (Bohlmeijer, Roemer, Cuijpers, & Smit, 2007), increase self-esteem (Haight et al., 2000), and improve adaptation (Chiang et al., 2008).
We learned recently that the Veterans Administration uses Narrative Exposure Therapy to treat those facing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  This is an interesting use of reminiscence therapy. 
In fact, Mayo Clinic sees an improvement in mood for people with dementia when using LifeBio for social engagement in a National Institute for Health study in progress.
Even people with dementia, do seem to be able to access long term memories.  They may enjoy talking about their grandparents, childhood games, or a vacation 40 or 50 years ago….especially when the “day to day” information about weather, health, sports, or food has little or no relevance as a conversation.  
Reminiscence is a powerful tool for people of all ages, but especially for seniors.  It is also interesting that PURPOSE has been tied to better overall health, and creating a lasting legacy is an incredibly PURPOSEFUL thing for seniors to be doing. 
My feeling is that reminiscence therapy and life story work in general is one of the best ways to deeply connect human beings, and what the world needs now is less loneliness and isolation and more true relationships.  So let’s do encourage personal storytelling....and record the incredible stories along the way.  We might gain some valuable wisdom too!
Beth Sanders

Friday, October 09, 2015

Why to Start a Life Story Program in Senior Living, Hospice, Hospitals, or Health Care

A good life story program helps people ask the right questions to bring out the best stories and to create a strong connection with family and other loved ones.  When people are reaching old age or facing a life-threatening illness, this is the ideal time to be offering a life story program.

Well documented health and wellness benefits of reminiscence are another great reason to be certain you have an effective life story program as it positively impacts quality of life, quality of care, and patient satisfaction.

Increases in happiness and satisfaction with life, lowering depression, and even lowering physical pain are all reasons to be reminiscing and reviewing one's life with intension.  And with Alzheimer's Disease and other related dementias stealing people's long-term memories, it becomes both urgent and important to document the life story without delay.

As LifeBio works with over 100 organizations to roll out simple but powerful life story programs, we have learned what support is needed to be successful. Here are a few tips from our experience:

1) It's important to have the support of the executive team in the organization. This can't be just one person's job to build a life story program. It's not a "nice" to do; it's a "need" to do. It must be backed by leaders who see that it is integral to the services offered---especially if this is an organization focused on individualized care or patient-centered care.

2) Who can help with the life story? It is key to ensure that staff, family, and volunteers (love it when high school or college students are involved like in the picture above) are encouraged to work 1 on 1 or in small groups with individuals to make the life stories happen.  With the right questions in booklet form or online, it can happen.  It doesn't have to take a lot of time (even 30 minutes of asking the right questions can result in something beautiful).  The point here is to unlock the stories of the people in your care beyond their clinical needs and see them holistically -- while giving them the opportunity to be deeply known and to create a legacy.

3) Making it beautiful and error free is really important.  One of the KEY things that LifeBio focuses on (and software makes possible), for example, is striving for perfection with our clients.  How can we make the life story of a person in a nursing home, hospital, or hospice look as great as possible?  After all, this is his or her LIFE STORY--not something to be taken lightly. So we have a whole "Story Team" of writers, editors, and fact checkers whose job is to help make the online story, the Life Story Booklets, and the Life Story Summaries as perfect as possible.  We ask ourselves, "How do I honor this person's story and make it incredible for the person, staff, and loved one's to read and enjoy now and in the future?"

A life story program requires a team effort.  It can't happen with just one person working alone.  It is intense, life changing, and essential for the future of health care.
Beth Sanders, 937-303-4576,

Monday, August 31, 2015

New Teen/Kids version of LifeBio makes its debut

We realize that children may also want to tell their life stories, and their parents find their responses fascinating.  That's why now has a Kids/Teen template inside.  The questions were developed by asking our own children what they would like to talk about -- school, friends, sports, favorite costumes, and just life in general.  

LifeBio immediately builds a ready-to-print book of the children's life story so far.  There is, of course, ample opportunities to keep coming back and adding more and more and more through the years. It's interesting to think about kids answering the questions at various points in their childhood.  How different a child's answer would be from what that same person would say as a teenager!   Even their favorite food and color would have probably changed! 

Love the interaction that this causes with family.  For example, we think it is great to have kids asking where they used to live when they were little or asking the names of distant family members to add to that part of their family's story.   We would recommend this for homeschooling parents and for schools who would like students to have a great reason to be online doing something meaningful -- in a safe and secure environment. 

For more information on the Kids/Teen story, go to or call 1-866-LIFEBIO or call 937-303-4576.  Licensing is available for group or children's hospitals or organization usage.