Dementia Insights: Building a Life-Story or Life-Book

Many families create life-books or life-stories for relatives with dementia.


Many families create life-books or life-stories for relatives with dementia.

For someone with dementia, holding on to key memories and information about their life can be an incredibly helpful exercise. Many families create life-books or life-stories for relatives with dementia. This can help the individual maintain their identity or simply give them a resource the refer to for entertainment or comfort. But it can also provide carers, both professional and from within the person’s circle of friends and family, with an invaluable guide to the person, their life, their interests and preferences and their personality.

Creating a life-story can be a shared and bond-building exercise between the person with dementia and their family. This process allows the person with dementia the opportunity to think about their life, develop their sense of identity and, as the condition progresses, gives them a way to access their life and key memories.


It is likely that the person with dementia will receive support at home from carers outside their immediate friends and family. Professional home care providers, such as Bluebird, employ highly trained staff who work hard to develop an understanding of the people they care for. A life-story or life-book can be an invaluable aid to them providing high quality care and building a strong relationship with the person with dementia.


A life-story can, of course be created in the form of a book. The advantages of this format include portability and the high volume of content they can hold. They can also be created over a period of time, but can be useful even when incomplete or in the early stages of writing.


Alternatives to books include photo collages and memory boxes. Photos are evocative and, being non-verbal, can be more effective later in the development of the condition. Memory boxes are simply collections of meaningful items that are linked to key aspects of the person’s life. Again, being non-verbal, they can be very useful if the person has sensory disabilities – touch and feel can be important memory prompts.


Many people will have collections of photos and videos, either on smart phones or other digital devices. Video and stills can be collated into short videos, with music or voice recordings to provide rich resources of memories and even messages from loved ones. Apps are available that can do much of this work for you. Technology isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it can be a very effective way of storing, recording and sharing memories in different formats.


Tips For building a life-story or life-book


Most importantly, make sure the person with dementia is completely involved in the process and that they are allowed to make it fully reflective of their personality and preferences.


Offer to provide support by writing or typing the story, so that the person it is about can concentrate on telling their story.


Be flexible about the way the story comes together. A chronological approach might not be as effective as a themed approach. Allow the narrative to wander and find key areas of interest, where rich memories can be recorded and created.


Suggest concentrating on a key topic, era, memory or person and allow time to explore the associated memories thoroughly.


Building a life-story can be tiring. Be sensitive to the story-teller becoming tired or their concentration waning.


Also be sensitive to the content of the memories. There are likely to be memories that are less welcome and possibly distressing. Think ahead and respect the person’s privacy and feelings.


If the person with dementia already has communication issues, get other family members and friends to join you to co-create and share memories.

Dementia UK have a life-story template which is a really useful starting point if you want tome help with the project:

Social & Support Links

Here at Bluebird, we are involved with Calderdale Dementia Friendly Community (CDFC) an organisation that wants to support groups and organisations to help make Calderdale a dementia-friendly borough. Find out more about them on their website

You can find local memory cafés (also known as a dementia café), on the Alzheimer's Society website – meet other people with dementia and their carers in an informal drop-in setting to share advice, tips and support

Song: Try the Singing for the Brain groups run by the Alzheimer’s Society – singing is known to improve mood and wellbeing and is also great fun

The Alzheimer's Society offers support near you and Age UK offers social activities for what's available in your area.

Home Care

If you need more support, following your dementia diagnosis, home care can help. Living in your own home is the preferred option of many people with dementia and has obvious benefits in helping you to maintain a familiar environment and day-to-day routine. At Bluebird, we offer a full range of home care, from occasional visits, through to live-in care and respite care. Find out more on our website: /