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Life Story Work

This PhD study by Ponnusaami Subramaniam was supervised by Professor Bob Woods and Professor Linda Clare.
Reminiscence work has been described as the most popular psychosocial intervention for people with dementia. Despite its popularity, the empirical evidence that is available has been limited and inconclusive. The form of reminiscence work that is most associated with successful aging is integrative reminiscence work. For people with dementia, integrative reminiscence work using life story books appears promising but is lacking in empirical evidence. This project began by providing an over view of reminiscence work and a systematic literature review of randomised control trials of individual reminiscence work for people with dementia. The findings highlight the psychosocial advantages of one to one reminiscence work, especially the life review/life story book approach and specific reminiscence work. The review concludes that the use of life review/ life story books with people with dementia merits further study.

Therefore, a preliminary randomised control trial with 23 older adults with dementia living in care homes was conducted. The main objective was to examine whether a life story book without a life review process has equivalent benefits to the combined approach that has previously been shown to have therapeutic benefits. The effect of intervention on relatives and staff was also assessed. The 23 participants were randomly assigned into two groups, life review and life story book as a gift group. The results indicated participants in one to one life review sessions showed significant improvement on key outcome measures evaluating quality of life and autobiographical memory. Participants that received a life story book as a gift showed improvement after receiving the book, even though they had not been involved in its creation, with no difference apparent between the groups at the final follow-up assessment.  The findings suggest that a life story book developed either with or without involving the person with dementia, has therapeutic value and improvements in staff attitudes and knowledge suggest life story books can facilitate and promote personalised care. Relatives rated the quality of their relationship with the person with dementia as having improved following the introduction of the life story books.

With developments in technology, it is now possible to present a life story book in digital multi-media form, and this service is available from a number of organisations. Therefore, a second systematic literature review examined the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to reminiscence work for people with dementia. The findings support the feasibility of ICT based reminiscence work. Some personalized ICT based reminiscence work served as a replacement for paper based life story books. Some important issues are highlighted and discussed in this review article.    

To explore this, an original research study examining the usefulness and feasibility of ICT based reminiscence work was conducted. A multiple single case study approach was used to explore the idea. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to explore the results. The results indicated that the application of ICT based personalized reminiscence work in movie format was well received and associated with positive outcomes.


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