Life histories are central to person-centred care. They provide a wealth of personal information that carers can use everyday to connect with the people they look after. The challenge is to capture information early, to use and update that information regularly and to balance that with all the other demands on staff time.
One approach that might offer a solution has been taken by Somerset Care. They have chosen to use Forget Me Not Book as their life history toolkit primarily as it ticked a number of boxes; it was intuitive to use and private, but being web based allowed for multiple family members to join in the generation of loved ones books. This has encouraged more people to be more regularly and actively involved as a result of updating their books. This still didn't cover the issues of time or rather lack of it.
Once again Somerset Care demonstrated pragmatism and commitment and invited us to present to their 50 or so activities co-ordinators at their annual training days. Time to sing the praises of all you activities co-ordinators out there! It takes a special person to be an activities co-ordinator. You need to care, have bags of energy and imagination be a good communicator, work well in a team, be organised and empathetic and go that extra yard. But being so good at all the above leaves little time to take on life histories as well.
The answer is not to think in terms of one person in the home taking responsibility for doing a whole life history for a resident. This is just not practical. However if you think about who could learn HOW to do this, who could act as the facilitator, the expert within the home that families can turn to for support and to help them to get started then it becomes much more manageable and not quite so daunting. We concentrated our presentation on who we were and what Forget Me Not Book was all about, the bigger ideas about where this could lead and how it could help care staff families and the residents but the bulk of the day was spent with the activities co-ordinators in small groups getting hands on. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with even those staff members nervous of the technology left feeling enthusiastic about having a go.
We gave each of them with the small task of putting their favourite activity into a shared book. The finished book will therefore have contributions from up to fifty of the co-ordinators which will make a varied and interesting book for them all to share and learn from without it being a difficult or time consuming exercise for any one person.
This is one of the key advantages of the way in which Forget Me Not Book works, we want to share the load, get more people more actively and regularly involved with their loved ones in care and now we have a small but enthusiastic army of activities co-ordinators who can help explain that to families and help them to get started.
We'd like to extend our thanks to Somerset Care for inviting us, for their innovative thinking and for their commitment to improving the lives of the people in their care. We'd also like to thank the activities co-ordinators for welcoming us and for being so positive!