The Value of Life Story Work and Reminiscence in Dementia Care

Understanding someone’s life experiences and helping them connect with their memories is essential for delivering person-centred dementia care. Here are some life story and reminiscence ideas to try.


Understanding someone’s life experiences and helping them connect with their memories is essential for delivering person-centred dementia care. Here are some life story and reminiscence ideas to try.

Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia. While short term memory tends to be affected first, long term memories often remain for much longer. In recent years, life story work and reminiscence therapies have increasingly been recognised as an essential element of person-centred dementia care.

Our memories are integral to who we are. Without them to refer to, it’s hard to maintain the sense of self which is so vital to our health and happiness. That’s why life story work and engaging in reminiscence activities is so important. It helps people reconnect with their past to improve their current wellbeing.

It also has other benefits. Learning about a someone’s life experiences can help care givers build stronger, more empathetic relationships with them. In addition, a deeper insight into the person’s story can help in understanding behaviours or devising effective care strategies to help the person in difficult times.

It’s also lots of fun! Listening to the memories of older people and sharing stories can be surprising, fascinating and educational. So, here are just a few enjoyable life story activities and reminiscence therapies you can do with an older relative or customer with dementia.

Life story and reminiscence ideas 

Scrapbooks and keepsake boxes – collating photos from the person’s past and recording significant life stories in a life story scrapbook is a great way to bring memories together. The person can use it as a memory prompt and caregivers can employ it to encourage reminiscence and get to know the person better. If you want to know more, Dementia UK has some great advice on how to create a comprehensive life story book. Also, popping things like family photos, old letters, perfume, jewellery and other special memory prompts in a keepsake box is an effective way to ensure the person has precious memories at hand when they need them most.

Listening to music: music has an amazing capacity to take you back to an instant in time or a certain place. Find out what musical eras the person has lived through, who their favourite artists are and whether they have a music collection they haven’t explored in a while. If they don’t have access to the music they love, you could try helping them find it on a free streaming platform, for example. A good sing along or dance can often help people relive experiences from their younger days and improve their mood.

Using media:  TV, radio, the internet, apps - they’re all really useful tools for tapping into people’s interests and memories. Favourite gameshows and comedies that they used to watch every Saturday night (when there were only a couple of channels on TV!) might remind them of fond family times. Documentaries or podcasts that touch on their interests or former job can encourage communication and recollection. Or perhaps there are old family videos or DVDs that the person might like to watch to remember the old days. You could even get creative and use technology to record someone’s life story on video or on an app rather than in scrapbook form.

Prompting with objects: The sensory element of handling an object can be very effective in evoking memories and feelings. It could be something like clothing, a precious possession or an object that relates to a former hobby or job. If they enjoyed going to the seaside as a child, touching shells, sand or seaweed could bring back fond recollections. If they loved baking, the sensory pleasure of kneading and smelling dough might stir up memories that make them smile. Decorating the person’s daily environment with objects that help them reminisce is also a lovely idea. Familiar, loved items make us feel at home, happy and safe, which is particularly important to people living with memory loss.

Revisiting hobbies and work skills: Hobbies are something we choose to do because we love them, so they’re very useful in prompting positive recollections. And skills we acquire through work are often deeply ingrained. Asking someone to share their passion, knowledge or skill is great for reinforcing a sense of agency. Whatever they want to revisit, try and get them involved in a way that makes it easy for them to do as much or as little as they want. It doesn’t matter how you explore it, as long as it helps rekindle memories of things that make them happy.

Positive dementia care

At Bluebird Care Bromley, we’re dedicated to helping people with dementia live rounded, healthy and happy lives in their own homes. Connecting with people is one the best and most important parts of our job and enables us to deliver bespoke, person-centred care across South East London. That’s why we do everything we can to enable our Care Assistants to get to know our customers and build strong relationships. If you’d like to know more about our home care or dementia care services, get in touch.