Biography work – how can it help?

With the nursing biography work one brings the life history of a person into its care and support. On the one hand, it activates patients; on the other hand, for caregivers, engaging with the patient’s life leads to a better understanding of the person in need of care.

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Biography work activates still existing abilities

In general, the focus of care has shifted from deficits to activation. Instead of paying attention to what the patient can no longer do, one should rather concentrate on what he can still do and how he can maintain this. To a certain extent, biography work serves as the key. With the orientation on the life of the patient, one can find out which abilities are still present and to what extent, and then promote them.

Activation of the long-term memory of people with dementia

An example of activation is memory. Not only older people like to tell stories from their past. For people with dementia, however, this has a special meaning: cognitive impairment usually affects short-term memory first. What has just happened may be forgotten, but the past is more likely to be remembered.

Biography work activates long-term memory by addressing it constantly. Not only does this have cognitive advantages, namely the preservation of the memory capacity or the ability to remember. the delay of forgetting; remembering also has quite positive influences on the patient’s sensations.

Thus, through the occupation with the past of the person in need of care, memories often emerge that the person had already forgotten and about which one can then, of course, be particularly happy.

Of course, there are also unpleasant memories that can resurface- in this case it is necessary to enter into conversation gently and to be comforting. In addition, the focus should generally be on positive memories, since the ultimate goal of biography work is the patient’s quality of life.

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Biography work helps to understand patients

For caregivers, on the other hand, biography work can bring significant relief to their work. By getting to know the personal characteristics, the uniqueness in the person of the patient, it is much easier to decipher the signals that the patient gives about his or her condition.

By giving context to certain behaviors and likes or dislikes through the patient’s life, you can more easily interpret their behavior- this is especially helpful for people with dementia who can no longer communicate their own thoughts clearly. The result is that possible "missteps" can be avoided of the person in need of care can be tolerated more easily and thus one can face him or her in a calmer and more level-headed way.

Mutual trust also grows: people with dementia also notice when someone approaches them with interest and is willing to engage with them and their lives.

For whom is biography work suitable?

In principle, biography work is suitable for every person, as it creates a certain measure in self-reflection, which in turn leads to learning lessons from the past for the present and the future. This does not only concern people in need of care.

The special feature of biography work, however, to fathom the individuality of people, has great potential for the care of people with dementia.
By engaging with the person’s life and using personal preferences for everything you do together, skill activation is on a very emotional level, which is much more suitable for people with impaired daily living skills than purely rational approaches.

Music in biography work

By playing music from their past to people with dementia, or singing or playing it together with them, you can build a bridge into their history, where you don’t need words, don’t need to evoke a concrete experience.

From fun music and making music together often leads to a reminiscence of the patient by itself. If not, then you still have the fun in the music!

How biography work becomes possible?

In order to be able to do biography work, two factors are important: the relationship of trust between the caregiver and the patient, and information about the life of the person concerned.

For trust, the sincere attention of the caregiver is absolutely necessary: if the person in need of care notices that you are just devoting yourself to him because it is on the timetable, trust cannot develop. It is necessary to approach the counterpart with care, sensitivity and patience and, above all, to remain discreet when working with the biography.

On the other hand, non-confidential information about the biography should also be documented so that other caregivers can link to it. Whereby we are also with the second condition: The procurement of information.

First of all, there is the person himself; even people with dementia can still remember many details from the past. Therefore, you can just let them tell, explain old photo albums and also like them to some things- such as his or her taste in music, favorite food, etc. – consult. Only one should do this without pressure, so as not to stress the person in question.

Apart from that, one can also make inquiries with the relatives, what family relationships, social environment, career, etc. are like. of the patient.

What can you do as a family member?

As a relative, you naturally have a special position, because you already know each other, so the basis of trust has already been established, and because you also already know a lot about your relative in need of care. Precisely because you are part of his or her biography, you can go into it much more intensively and start much more consciously where your relative has potential or. Showing preferences.

If your relative is being cared for by a caregiver, you can make it easier for caregivers to do biographical work by providing information about your relative, as indicated above. Of course, it is important here that you do not give away any information that is too confidential. You can also give the caregivers memorabilia such as photo albums or written documents, which they can then review and discuss with your relative.

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