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 www.lifebio.com 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, info@lifebio.com