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A Top Ten Life Story Card Supports Quality Dementia Care

Posted on: Jul 03, 2020

David Troxel, MPH, co-author of The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care and Dementia Care Consultant to Christian Horizons

This week Christian Horizons enters its third week of an 8-week campaign to improve the lives of its residents living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. 

This week’s focus is on creating a “Top 10” life story or biography card for each resident living in memory care. This “mini-memoir,” with 10 key facts about the person, will provide staff with insights and approaches to build a caring and successful relationship with residents who may have forgotten much of their past.

For example, a Top 10 Card might reveal that a resident is from New Orleans and loves hot and spicy food. With a quick look, staff now know to offer him some Tabasco sauce with his evening dinner.

I know from caring for my own mother, Dorothy, who died with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, how impactful life story work can be. 

My mother was born in Canada but lived all over the world. She spoke fluent French and, thanks to her British parents, loved Earl Grey tea with milk! She was very social and enjoyed hosting afternoon tea parties.

When my mother lived in memory care in Sacramento, California, staff knew these key facts about her life. When she was having a bad day, staff could offer her “Earl Grey tea with milk, just the way you like it!” The result -- she would relax, smile, and enjoy some social time with staff and other residents. 

One staff member from Morocco spoke French with her on a regular basis, prompting another staff member to ask my mother to offer the group French lessons. Mom was now “Madam Professor” to the group and she felt that she had an important position in the community. 

As Christian Horizon rolls out this new Top 10 card, staff in any given community will discover hundreds of facts about residents including interesting careers, awards and recognition, favorite foods, and religious and spiritual traditions. 

It all adds up to new ways to touch distant memories and create a culture of connection and care that brings out the best in persons with dementia. 

A quick tip: If you are caring for someone at home, create a Top 10 biography card for your family member with dementia. This will be invaluable for any in-home staff or if your family member ever requires hospitalization. 

For a copy of the Pathway Memory Support Program’s Top 10 Life Story card, contact your local Christian Horizon community.