Using Life Stories for Person-Centred Care

Once you have gathered and put together the information on a resident’s life story, it is time to use it to really make positive changes to their life in the care home, ensuring they are engaging in meaningful activities and have found a sense of independence.

Going through a resident’s life story recently made me think about a conversation I had with another lady in my care home.

We were talking about the changes in her life, and she said the hardest thing she had to overcome wasn’t the aches and pains of getting old, or even the transition of moving into a care home, but was actually when her driving license was taken away, and she felt it was the start of her losing her independence.

This is the kind of simple information that needs to be in a life story, so you can act on it when needed.

There are lots of ways people can lose their independence, but not being able to drive is a major one, and no matter what our opinion is of older drivers, we need to support those who are in that situation.

Many people do not want to feel like a burden on their families or carers, so they do not want to ask constantly for a lift, especially if it’s at an inconvenient time. This means that they will probably just stop asking for lifts, and stay in their homes, increasingly isolated, and often becoming anxious and depressed. This can be the same at a care home, when people reduce their involvement in day trips, and then activities, soon finding that leaving their own room is a challenge.

It’s important to make sure families know they can still take their loved ones out and about, to family events or out for coffee.

Organise outings into the local area with a small group. In most homes it is the activity coordinator’s role to organise this, however, in Outstanding homes, the whole team gets involved.

Find out what new and current residents used to do when living independently at home – if they went to the supermarket every Saturday morning, or for a drive on a Sunday, could you then continue this for them, bringing a few other residents along with you?

If you don’t have a care home car or bus, then split taxi costs between residents, or you could even fundraise for a regular outing budget.

If you felt they could manage, perhaps look into local bus timetables and copy down the times and locations in an easy-to-read format for residents.

Also find out what their daily routine at home was. Some residents might like to help with laying the tables for breakfast as it harks back to a time when they were raising a family, while others who enjoy cooking might wish to help out in the kitchen.

Also think about residents who might have been milkmen or women, postmen or women, had a paper round, worked as a cleaner, teacher, accountant, electrician, gardener, seamstress, mechanic, carpenter and so on. A care home should operate like any other home, and all of these previous jobs could be replicated in a simple way (delivering post, dropping off the Daily Sparkle to residents’ rooms, setting out the lounge for crafts, helping with budgeting and receipts, fixing lamps, gardening, doing DIY and so on).

Be creative. There are so many ways to give someone back their sense of purpose and self, and life stories will help you to use this information effectively.

Read our previous life story features here:

Why Life Story Work Matters

Uncovering Life Stories

Recording Life Stories