Sunday, February 27, 2011

Person-centered care won't work unless.....

health care workers truly know people and their life stories. The brief social history or even the new MDS 3.0 standards are okay, but these things are the bare minimum. The life story will need to be captured and it can happen in a variety of ways by learning more from the people themselves or by a process of involving their family members in the interview or by motivating staff to engage in a much more personal way. Also, too often family could and would tell health care workers more information, but health care workers aren't asking the family to provide this.  It's the details that count and there is a lot of information that can be gathered over time. What makes this person really tick? What are their personal comforts? What relationships were important to them? What really matters? What will help us truly connect?  I know its overwhelming with the level of detail needed on the health care and physical needs side of things.....but emotional and spiritual and social needs must come FIRST.

Want help? We've implemented our approach in a variety of heatlh care and hospital settings across the U.S. and Canada so far. Call LifeBio at 1-866-543-3246 or

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wise words about recollections

Dr. Bill Thomas of the Eden Alternative writes... "Much is made, and rightly so, of the special circumstances in which elders experience a great forgetting. We commonly refer to this as “living with dementia.” Less attention is paid, however, to how and why elders remember. Elders’ recollections are different from ordinary forms of memory…

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Adult Day Care Activities

One of the most important aspects of adult day services is providing companionship and opportunities for conversation. For people with memory loss, it is also vital to be stimulating the hippocampus area of the brain where memories are stored. Journaling groups are very possible as part of the activity program in an adult day center--pose just one or two questions a day and encourage people to write their answers down themselves if possible. The long-term memories may still be very much intact. Activity directors in adult day care centers could also use pictures to prompt memories such as those offered in the MemoryBio curriculum available from LifeBio (samples are available by emailing ) .

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sweet memories and conscious of them

When I read to my son and the dog listened too, that is a sweet memory. When my daughter practiced the same little tune on the piano over and over again, that is a sweet memory. When my husband and I sat as close as we could at dinner so our knees were touching, that is a sweet memory. I am very interested in living in the moment and being conscious of the sweet moments that I am experiencing so I can hold onto them and remember as much as possible. I am building a beautiful archive of sweet memories that I can tap into anytime I wish.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Orphaned at 60

Annette Gonzalez describes how it feels after both of her parents passed away. "I write and speak about feeling like an 'orphan' at sixty years of age. Five months after my mother died, my father passed away. Sharing my experiences as a daughter, caregiver, wife and mother hopefully will help others who are grieving over the loss of their parent."

Excellent blog that I thought should be passed along.

All the Lonely People

In a recent survey, 43 percent of respondents 45 through 49 are chronically lonely, compared with 25 percent of those 70 and older. What is going on? This article from AARP Magazine is worth reading.

Tips for overcoming loneliness...

As someone who is trying to find ways to build bridges and connect people in wider social networks, this information is good to know but concerning as well. We must work hard to stay connected...eye to eye, face to face, hand to hand. Talk on the phone with older adults if that is their preferred form of communication (email or texting may be your preferred form of communication but it may not be their preferred form.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

How to write an autobiography: 3 tips to getting started

Every life deserves a book. So how should we go about creating an autobiography and avoiding the dreaded blank sheet of paper?

1) Realize you DO have something when you write your life story and that it DOES matter. Your memories of parents and grandparents alone is a story worth sharing. Every day of life experience has taught you something. Your children and grandchildren will appreciate anything you write or type for them whether it is a one-page letter or a 100-page book. Frankly, I think obituaries are way too little information, way too late.

2) Don't start with a blank sheet of paper. There are numerous tools on the market that provide an online autobiography template. Also, life story journals or memory journals with prompting questions are also available at any Barnes & Noble or online. When questions are priming the pump of your memories, this gets a whole lot easier. Even if you want to create a more customized book someday, you may want to start with a template of autobiography questions to help you get your first draft done and to stay organized.

3) Don't wait until you are 90 to get started. At age 34, I started my own life story and it was quite an eye opener. As I looked at my story as a whole after a few weeks of answering autobiography questions, I was surprised to come to some new conclusions. It helped me see how one thing led to another, that led to another, that led to another. The whole chain of events was fascinating. I thought about my life in a "bigger picture" view that included my grandparents, my parents, myself, and my children. I even wrote a letter, as part of my story, to my future grandchildren. Also, it helped me think about, "What's next?" What will the next chapter of my life look like? So I see it as an excellent planning tool if you're in transition and asking yourself the question, "What's next?" You may find that, when you reflect, you remember how much you loved something when you were a kid. Looking back, could actually hold the secret to your future!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Intergenerational Projects for Teens

Youth are always seeking community service projects--so why not take the opportunity to have them connect to interview an older adults at a nursing home, senior living, assisted living community, church, senior center, or other setting. It's great to have a core group of kids in a service learning project who are going to do this project together so they can support each other. I'd recommend 5-8 teens and it would be great if it is a mix of male and female. As youth volunteers, they will appreciate a brief training on what they may encounter and tips for talking with seniors such as... 1) Don't mumble when you ask a question; 2) Listen carefully -- they know when you are not listening; 3) Don't worry about staying on track too much. A question you ask may take you off to a very interesting tangent that is important to their elder partner. 

Tools that help them easily start conversations and complete a simple project are recommended. After all, youth volunteers are busy with so many things and this may need to be a short-term project to be successful. If there is flexibility built in, that's great. So he or she can start out participating in a 1-day experience and then it can expand as the teenager wishes. For a starter project, Story Cards and Storyboards are great tools to make relationship building easy and Volunteer Training can be provided to get your group started. If the teenagers don't have to worry so much about WHAT to ask, they can concentrate more on HOW they ask it and focus on listening to the answer and recording it. If it isn't recorded, it will be lost or forgotten. They may just ask 3-4 questions during a visit or there may be time for more. Sometimes youth can make a bulletin board out of people's answers to a particular question in a nursing home setting. Sometimes the youth want to keep coming back in a 6-8 week project (one middle school teacher makes it an 8-week after school project). If it is a longer term project, the youth can be asking questions at and typing in their partner's answers.....or they can be writing answers into a Life Story Journal. The beauty of the online system is that the students can actually print out a copy of the person's life story easily when the project ends.

The older adults are volunteering to share their stories. The youth are volunteering to help record the stories. This is definitely a win-win experience that will TRANSFORM lives. It can work in a senior center, a library, a church, a care facility, senior living, or anywhere that youth and adults could benefit from more conversation and understanding and love. Call if we can help. 1-866-543-3246, Packages are available for groups.

Autobiography Class for Libraries

Every person should have the chance to write a book! Libraries are an ideal place to offer autobiography writing classes. Regardless of someone's age, there are people, times, and places to the library is great place for friendships to form. Although autobiography classes are usually most appealing to those over 50 or seniors, there is no reason why a library wouldn't be able to include adults of any age in a course to capture life stories. An autobiography class in a library for seniors or all ages should include a great ice breaker, opportunities for people to tell and share stories, and it shouldn't be overly complicated or intimidating. In other words, even people who consider themselves non-writers should be able to participate.

Ideally, the autobiography class will focus on general life experiences, parents/grandparents or other loved ones, childhood memories, love, marriage, jobs and careers, life lessons, values, and wisdom. There can also be a celebration at the end of the course to share the autobiographies written (or at least started) with the class participants and even family and friends. The living history of a community can be captured in such a class, and it would be fantastic if the library even offered the opportunity to archive the class participants' stories or at least a summary of the writings, in some way, in the local library. Present and future generations will be grateful to know the identity and essence of people -- not just their genealogy records. Also, the new connection and friendships from such an autobiography writing group cannot be underestimated.

For an idea of what your library can offer, please visit this link:

Questions? Call 1-866-543-3246 or 937-303-4576 or email

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Technology for nursing homes of the 21st Century

Technology in skilled nursing is very beneficial for the residents, families, and staff. Here are a few reasons why computers in long term care or assisted living will continue to expand now and in the future...

Why Technology is Important to Residents
Safe and easy Internet access and email
Activities on computers adapted to seniors' unique abilities and interests
Improved socialization and quality of life
Better connection with family and community using computers in nursing homes
Further independence
Cognitively stimulating

Why Technology is Important to the Community
Provide dignified, state of the art activities and therapy
CMS F-tag regulation compliance
Increase reimbursible therapy minutes with technology in long term care
Marketing differentiation
Creative and meaningful dementia programming
Engage younger volunteers
Ease move in transition
Improve communication for family

LifeBio has partnered with It's Never 2 Late to bring memory care programming to nursing homes and assisted living communities across the U.S. IN2L's expertise in technology and content development makes them an ideal partner. They have many years of experience in supporting communities everywhere. LifeBio's MemoryBio approach is included on the IN2L systems. Their adaptive systems are full of amazing things for older adults to do that can provide for meaningful activities and engagement.

Visiting IN2L's site to see examples of how adaptive technology for seniors can be beneficial. Jack York, founder of IN2L, is an excellent speaker on the topic of adaptive technology for older adults too.

To learn more about computers for nursing homes, visit or call (303) 806-0797 or email

To learn more about LifeBio's memory care programming and how it works in conjunction with IN2L's computer systems, email or call 1-866-543-3246. LifeBio also provides a full online autobiography template that can be accessed from the IN2L systems that are web enabled.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Memories lost. What can be done?

Here's a stunning number. In 2010, over 400,000 Americans were diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. Each year that number is expected to grow, reaching over 600,000 a year by 2030.
LifeBio is laser focused on using innovative technology and other tools to help ensure memories are not lost or forgotten in senior living, health care organizations, nursing homes, adult day programs, and home health care settings. Why?

• Quality - Knowing the whole person deeply has a significant impact on care. Knowing more leads to stronger relationships and higher levels of service (and lower staff turnover). It's not "nice to have" information. It preserves the person's identity.

• Engagement - People with memory loss can still tell a great story. Powerful things happen when family, volunteers, or staff can truly connect with the person experiencing Alzheimer's or another type of dementia in a more meaningful way. It's the details of his or her past, childhood memories, family relationships from long ago, and personal life experiences that matter. Conversations about today don't connect like conversations about the past. Story has the power to engage and teach US as we listen.

• Health - Reminiscence works the hippocampus area of the brain where memories are stored. Reminiscence touches all dimensions of wellness too--especially on an emotional and spiritual level. Today, the disease can't be stopped but perhaps it can be slowed. Innovators will keep working, trying, striving to do anything possible to help.


LifeBio provides technology (, Life Story Journals, Story Cards, Storyboards, and other tools for capturing life stories and ensuring memories are not lost or forgotten. LifeBio delivers training that helps organizations succeed. LifeBio also helps organizations with their fundraising/development, person-centered care initiatives, and outreach/marketing efforts. Want more info? Call 937-303-4574 or email to learn how to become a LifeBio Certified Organization without delay.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Reunion games - a conversation starter

One of the challenges of planning games for a reunion is coming up with something that everyone can play together -- younger and older alike. Sack races and balloon tosses are great, but interative family games can be a bit more difficult to plan. Conversation starters can break down barriers and make for a memorable family reunion game for all ages. I would suggest that autobiographical, interesting questions are circulated and there is a time limit (maybe even 15 minutes) to ask the question and gather at least a few answers from different people. The group can be challenged to talk to people they don't know or people of all ages. Turning conversation into a GAME is the key. For example, LifeBio's downloadable Story Cards provide 25 thought-provoking, fun questions that can be cut out and passed out at your next family reunion or other family gathering. There are also answer cards that say "My Story" at the top to write down answers. A great followup from the reunion would be to compile the questions asked and the answers to post online or to send out to everyone who attended.  If you pick different questions every year, it could become a new tradition every year at your family reunion. Building relationships is what really matters...but we sometimes have to be intentional about it.

Questions? Give us a call at 1-866-543-3246 (1-866-LIFEBIO).

Monday, February 07, 2011

Don't let memories be lost or forgotten

It's important to capture your family's history and record a lasting legacy. Record the essence of your parents or grandparents (not just genealogy) and ensure future generations can really know them too. Also, memory loss is a real problem. It's important for people with dementia to have their life stories recorded--this information could be extremely useful for professional caregivers to use in daily life interactions now or in the future.

Autobiography class for seniors

If you are interested in offering an autobiography class for seniors in your local area, senior center, or library, LifeBio provides the LifeBio 101 Class. This 8-week autobiography class for older adults curriculum is perfect for people of all ages but especially for seniors and boomers.

The leader or leaders can be community volunteers or staff who are great discussion leaders and good listeners (the leader will certainly listen a lot more than speak in these 8 sessions). These classes tend to become very social experiences so many times it is a matter of just keeping the class on track as you go through each week’s curriculum.

To purchase the LifeBio 101 Class Curriculum online OR to see pictures of the materials, click here:

This course will touch ALL dimensions of wellness. There have been over a 100 studies in the last 10 years demonstrating that reminiscence is a key part of healthy aging—lowering depression, lowering physical pain, etc.
This 8-week interactive class, recommended for groups up to 10 people, is designed to provide a structure to introduce the power of life stories and to kickstart participants' efforts to capture memories, experiences, hopes and dreams. Don't let memories be lost or forgotten. Interesting exercises such as The Window and more prime the pump of memories and lead to new friendships and opportunities to listen and learn from each other’s life journey. No prior writing experience is necessary. This course has been used in many settings across the U.S. in Canada with great results.

Here is what is covered in the LifeBio 101 8-week class. For $299, you will receive the following materials:

-- 11 Life Story Journals - The essential 72 autobiography questions are contained in this 8.5 x 11 easy-to-use, spiral bound book. 10 Life Story Journals for class participants and 1 Life Story Journal for the class leader.
-- 1 Leaders’ Guides – with step-by-step instructions and ideas on what to bring and do. (Includes graduation certificate template)

--10 Participants’ Guides – covering exercises and topics that guide people in writing in the Life Story Journal

Week #1 Class Overview & Great Reasons to Reminisce
Week #2 The People Who Shaped You
Week #3 Historical Events
Week #4 Childhood Memories
Week #5 The "Real World" of Adulthood
Week #6 Bringing It All Together (Values, Life Lessons)
Week #7 Story Sharing & Creative Storytelling
Week #8 Reception & Class Evaluation

To purchase the LifeBio 101 Class Curriculum online OR to see pictures of the materials, click here:
If the leader of the class would like custom training from LifeBio, a 30-minute training session costs $75.00. Please call to schedule this.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

400,000+ new cases of Alzheimer's Disease each year

Support the efforts of the Alzheimer's Association in your local area. Give to help find a cure for this disease that affects over 5 million Americans today. According to the Alzheimer's Association, in 2000, there were an estimated 411,000 new (incident) cases of Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. For 2010, that number is projected to be 454,000 new cases; by 2030, 615,000; and by 2050, 959,000.

Read more at the 2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report

Record memories so they will not be lost or forgotten. Capturing memories could be very important if a person does need long-term care...caregivers must see the whole person, not the disease.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

My Life Story -- Lessons learned from 41 years of life experience

Your life story and my life story are unique. I've learned a thing or two through the years and so have you. We don't always think about it or talk about it, but every day of life teaches us all something. I can only imagine that  at age 51, 61, 81 or 101, I will most likely name different lessons learned, but here are my thoughts at age 41.

1) Live in the moment...and take a breath too. It's easy at my age to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of children and work and laundry and dishes. It takes extra effort to sit down to watch a movie together or to go sled riding or hiking instead.

2) Life is hard...but life is great too! Unexpected things happen. Each of us has hardship and pain, but also a lot of JOY and love to experience every day. Life is not perfect for any of us--not for me, not for you, not for our spouses, our parents, or our children. We just have to do the best we can to make the most of every day and to help people through their challenges. We all need a listening ear sometimes or we need to be that listening ear for others. 

3) Cherish the people. Learn from the people who are precious to you. Know them. Forgive and be forgiven. Connect by phone or email. Capture their essence any way you can. Gain wisdom from your parents or grandparents life experiences. Life is not about stuff, accomplishments, and money. Life is about loving each other and making it through every day....together.

My life story and your life story  -- we're all just continuing down the road of life with adventures every step of the way.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Bible studies for seniors and boomers

Many churches are now using "The Great Story & Your Story: Connecting the Bible to Everyday Lives" for Bible studies for seniors and boomers. This study is appealing because it helps people really relate their own lives to the biblical stories contained. The questions during each week of the 12-week study are autobiographical in nature, leading to very interesting discussions and wonderful opportunities to be heard and to listen. At the back of the book, there are questions so someone can document their more specific faith story as well. It's worth investigating for your church (really ALL ages would love this--great intergenerational Bible study), senior group, small group, or Bible study group.

Quantity discounts are available by calling 866-543-3246 or 937-303-4576.
Read more about it or order a copy by going to this link:

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Snow day activities - why not interview your grandparents

For all those teenagers who have been out of school for a few days, here is your chance to call your grandparents or email them and just say, "Tell me your life story." Then watch what happens! They may actually do it.

You may want to give them a few ideas (and you could just start slow with one question or one idea at a time).... like....tell me about your childhood friends, your school, your favorite store, and your first car. Tell me about the day you met your sweetheart. Tell me your most embarrassing moment. Tell me your favorite memory of ice cream. Tell me about the blizzard of 1978 or another BIG snowstorm you remember. Tell me what you believe is true--what really makes you tick.

Be prepared to be shocked and amazed at the amazing things they have been through. Today is the day for the history books to be closed (school's closed). So, instead, experience history through your grandparents own unique perspective. Why not walk in your grandparents shoes for a little while. Time is of the essence.  Don't let memories be lost or forgotten. These are special people--they can't wait to talk with you.

Beth Sanders