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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Memory Care & Programming Solutions -- Engage

Memory Care & Programming Solutions -- ENGAGE

There is growing interest in ways to unlock the complexity of each person's life experience to improve relationships and to promote meaningful engagement. Individualizing service and care must begin by knowing the person's life story--helping deliver on brand promises while capturing essential details that will help you relate to those in your care every day.  

Beating Loneliness Through Life Stories

Article: Beating Loneliness Through Life Story

By Beth Sanders
A recent U.S. study found that social isolation and loneliness are major health risks---as bad or worse than chronic illness, obesity, smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or alcoholism. This report joins a host of other recent studies, revealing what those of us on the culture change journey already know: Loneliness is a killer. The best outcomes are a necessity in the changing health care landscape. So, addressing social isolation, sooner rather than later, is vital to your organization’s success.

Organizations practicing person-directed care understand that people need opportunities to grow through the development of meaningful relationships. Our connections with others also impact our sense of identity. To ensure the highest quality of life, it is essential to have a strong plan for one-on-one or small group engagement. This is the entire team’s job, whether they are clinical staff, a social worker, or focused on life enrichment. When the whole team is empowered to support relationship-building and healthy connections, everyone wins.

Story is the essential foundation for building a relationship. To build relationships, listen deeply and learn the details of their lives. Weaving life story into daily life affirms that home is where we are well-known and that the wisdom we’ve gained from 80 or 90 years of life has purpose and impact. As the foundation for quality care (and evidence for regulators of your commitment to engagement), life story provides a clear picture of the whole person – a tapestry of the people, times, and places that have shaped each person’s life.

Ask yourself and your teams the following (if you work with seniors in senior living, nursing homes, health care, assisted living, home care, home health, or hospice):
  1. How can we help staff, family, volunteers, and youth connect more with seniors through life stories?
  2. What conversations should we have to begin crafting life stories?
  3. How can we use the knowledge learned through life story to help those people living with Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementias? 
Please contact me, Beth Sanders, to setup a free webinar event to explore these questions and more, as we consider the growing trend of capturing detailed life stories as a tool for culture change.
Click here to learn more about LifeBio or email us now at to get pricing on a LifeBio license agreement for your organization now. Also, ask about how LifeBio can be part of your sales and marketing strategy. Let's get started telling those stories without delay!


Only 1 million of 16 million WWII Veterans remain. Act now!

This is our last chance to gather the life stories of the World War II generation.  Both veterans and their spouses have amazing memories and experiences to share without delay.   Over the next few years, this is our opportunity to learn more about our parents and grandparents.  These stories will be lost or forgotten if they are not recorded.  Here is your chance.

LifeBio can help.  Call 1-866-LIFEBIO (we will even record veterans over the phone) or email us at  with any questions.  Sign up at to get started immediately!   LifeBio has affordable memberships, but you can try the system for free just as you begin. 

Using Biographical Data to Impact Person-Centered Care for Culture Change

What if every person had a biography? What if a resident/client could be viewed in various stages of life so that staff could see the myriad of experiences they have lived through?  What difference would it make? Is it possible that capturing life stories is truly the answer to many of the problems facing assisted living providers today? 
The person-centered care movement is certainly ready for a more individualized approach.  What is the whole life story beyond the shadowbox next to Sara’s door? Who is Sara really?   (Read more to find out!)
After concentrating on personalizing the delivery and timing of dining, bathing, and medications, there is now a growing push to make person-centered care go many steps further.  True person-centered care requires a deeper  knowledge of the whole person—well beyond the social history and standard intake documents that are commonplace. 
For those with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s Disease, knowing the whole story is really essential for delivering quality assisted living or long-term care.   The memory cues that will help motivate a resident are gleened from the understanding of the person’s family life, work experiences, educational background, and things they have always loved to do. 
Sara’s Story
Sara is in a secured memory care area of your community. It’s important to know that Sara grew up in Gaylord, Michigan and enjoyed roller skating and camping with her friends. She remembers trips to the Wisconsin Dells as a young girl with her mother, who was a school cook (her mom made the very best sweet rolls). Sara is a graduate of Michigan State University and she was an elementary school teacher for 30 years. She loves looking at plants (up close), bird watching, and painting with watercolors.  She has been to Equador and Prince Edward Island when she was younger.  She has been married for over 50 years and she raised two boys.  She has two grandchildren, Laura and Steven, who are the loves of her life.  She has always taken them to the art museum and the zoo and she still wishes she could go there more often.  She loves hot chocolate and she dislikes chicken noodle soup.   

What changes when we know these things about Sara?  It gives us many ways to start a conversation.  We can share photos of Equador or the Wisconsin Dells.  Sara may be interested in helping others with a craft with her background as a teacher.  Opportunities to be outside will be welcomed by Sara, who would like to plant the community garden or she would appreciate helping to refill the bird feeders.  An outing to the zoo or the art museum would be fun. She would probably also enjoy family parties that included her grandchildren.  Sara loves children, and she would probably enjoy opportunities to visit with the Girl Scout troops that come into your community. These are just a few of the ways that “processing” the biography leads to more personalized approaches to service and care.  The activity calendar really has Sara on it---that trip to the zoo and sharing a book about Equador is for her.  Of course, others will enjoy these things as well.  It’s just that the life enrichment is truly planned around the people in your care right now.  As the people change, so do the monthly or annual activities. 
Asking the Right Questions, Involving the Family

Gathering the story is much easier when the resident can share it for themselves.  Especially in communities where people are living independently, there is a chance to begin the process sooner.  Even in assisted living, there are simple approaches that will help unlock the various chapters of people’s lives.  In small groups or in 1:1 visits, staff can help gather the life story little by little.  In memory care settings, it will be important to work quickly to gain information that could be very valuable later.  Also, families can certainly do their best to share the key biographical information that will be essential for building a strong relationship.   The adult son or daughter can certainly go into depth on what hobbies and interests their parent has had through the years, if the organization is asking the right questions and treating the information like gold.  There is no sense operating with one hand tied behind your back, when this information can be used. 
Dignity and Respect
What is gained when the person feels deeply known?  They feel the difference in the way care is delivered.  They are reminded of their accomplishments and the joys and challenges of life.   “They know me. They remember who I am.”  Don’t we all want to be seen as a whole person---with our wants and needs and background known and appreciated?   The life story provides the details that are necessary to make that feeling a reality for residents with or without cognitive challenges.
Making a Difference in Sales and Marketing Too
The competition is growing and it is fierce.  What sets an organization apart from the pack?  Knowing the life story and individualizing service and care is the key way to set yourselves apart.  Tapping into that story and personalizing conversations and daily life is key to making someone's day in senior living and memory care.  Listen deeply and connect more.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Story Behind Tomatoes and an Apple on the Kitchen Counter

This weekend I was standing in my kitchen, deciding what to fix my husband and son for dinner (our daughter just left for college). I eyed the tomatoes on the counter from our garden, and I decided that I should try to make homemade tomato soup.

Then my mind began to think of my grandmother and my Uncle Ray.  Recently, I had interviewed my Uncle Ray because he is a wonderful man and he also has had a number of health challenges. In my line of work (capturing life stories), it just comes naturally to want to record the people I love while there is time.

The Tomatoes

During the phone interview, my Uncle Ray said, "Mom was a terrific cook. She had some specialties that I particularly liked. Her steak was to die for. We grew up in an area that was an orchard originally. There was farmland too. There were a lot of trees with apples and cherries and pears. She canned a lot of fruit. We had a garden and we raised a lot of vegetables that she liked to can or freeze. One of her specialties was canning tomato juice which she would pull out every once in awhile on a cold winter day. I used to deliver newspapers, so I would go out in the cold and deliver papers, and when I came home she would make a meal out of her tomato juice, like cream of tomato soup and hamburgers. That was a great meal after you’ve been outside in the cold. It was wonderful to come home to that." 

Here I was in my kitchen, thinking of my grandmother making dinner for her own family.  I felt a connection. So I grabbed the cookbook and did my best to create what I thought would be similar to my grandmother's tomato soup recipe.  It turned out pretty good---probably not as good as grandma's way with homemade tomato juice, but good enough and my husband and son seemed to enjoy it.

The Apple 

Then as I eyed an apple on the counter in the kitchen another story from Uncle Ray came back to me from that interview, and it made me think of my great-grandfather (whom I never met).  Uncle Ray said, "My grandfather used to babysit us once in awhile when Mom was teaching school. They lived next door to us all their lives. When I was going to school, and my mother went to her kindergarten class, I would go next door to my grandparents, and they would feed us breakfast before we went to school. Because we grew up in this old orchard, my grandfather had several fruit trees on his property, and I still remember him picking an apple and standing there in the backyard, cutting an apple up and giving me pieces of it. That made me a lover of apples. I still have an apple a day."

I don't know why, but that is just such a sweet memory for Uncle Ray (and now for me).  I like to think of my great-grandfather, standing in the backyard of our family home, cutting up an apple and handing pieces of it to Uncle Ray. It shows the love and care of a grandfather for a grandson. A simple gesture of love. It shows that our family has been taking care of each other for generations.  Again, there just seemed to be a connection there.  The fresh apple on my kitchen counter has more meaning than it had before because I know this story...because I asked my uncle to share. 

The family stories do matter. They really are priceless and they should not be lost or forgotten. Get them while you can.

Beth Sanders, Founder & CEO, 

LifeBio will interview your loved one by phone and create a beautiful document from the interview.  Call us if you need help -- 1-866-LIFEBIO (1-866-543-3246) or 937-303-4576.  You can also email us at  Work online to build a biography of a loved one or your own autobiography at  Memberships are available:

Become a LifeBio Authorized Organization and bring the LifeBio Project to your community.  LifeBio licenses senior living providers, nursing homes, assisted living, hospices, home health, and hospitals to offer LifeBio to residents/clients/patients.  Call or email for more information or visit


Friday, June 13, 2014

LifeBio's Hotline number is 1-866-LIFEBIO

For those in Canada or around the world, you can also reach LifeBio at 937-303-4576.  Our email is  LifeBio provides life story, memory care, and programming solutions for senior living and health care providers.   We have creative ways to meet the needs of those aging normally or those with mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's Disease, or other forms of dementia. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Father's Day

Father's Day is coming up next month on June 15! It's always a stressful time thinking of what to get your father for this special day. He's been there for you your whole life, helping you fix things, working through problems, and supporting you through life's milestones. You want to show your appreciation for him with a special gift, but what to get him? Over the years, I've given my dad more sports memorabilia, hats, and fishing equipment than he will ever know what to do with. One memorable year I gave him a brush to clean his tires.

Think outside the box this year, and get him the power to create his own autobiography. Our fathers are getting older- they won't be around forever. Let him leave behind his legacy with Lifebio's easy to use tools and website. Your father's legacy will survive for generations after him. It's a gift that keeps on giving, and will show your father how much you love and appreciate him.

This year, let's celebrate our fathers more than ever before. They've shaped us to be who we are today, and they've never stopped showing us their love.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

7 Tips for Writing Your Autobiography

Writing your autobiography can be a scary thing to think about. Where do I even begin? Here are several tips to help ease the process. You'll have your own personal autobiography in no time!

1. Set a goal for completion. Life is busy and complicated, and you may find yourself putting it off. Set your goal to be an upcoming holiday, or the end of the year. You'll find that a deadline helps keep you motivated.
2. Decide the template you want. There are so many ways you can put your life story together. Decide on a set of questions to use, or just go chronologically.
3. Find a friend you can share the process with. Having a friend or a group of people to complete your life stories with can make the process more enjoyable. It's fun to share what you've written, and to learn about your friend's lives.
4. Look at photo albums. Pictures can be a great way to remember some of your favorite stories. We tend to take pictures of what we love the most. Jot down some memories that come to mind from the photos you look at.
5. Make a list of your favorite memories. You've done so much in your life. It's probably too much to write in one book. Write down your favorite things that you've done. Call some family members and ask them what they'd like to know.
6. Answer a question a day. Making an autobiography can be a daunting task. Just write one answer for the day. When you're done, read over the questions for the next day and take awhile to ponder over it.
7. Do the best you can. Don't let one question trip you up. You can skip over it, or you can avoid it completely if you don't want to talk about it. Just keep going until you complete it. It'll be worth it! has a wide variety of memory books that can make this process so much easier. It greatly simplifies making your autobiography, freeing you up to think about your memories! Check it out!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Importance of Life Stories

When my grandmother died a couple of years ago, my family and I spent a couple of days going through her things to either get rid of them or keep them ourselves. As we went through her house, I found a couple of photo albums. There was a picture of her at seventeen with my grandfather right before he went off to World War Two, and there were several of her and him as teenagers sitting in a car. She was so young and beautiful, and I found myself thinking. What was she like as a teenager? How did she feel when my grandfather went off to war? Where exactly were they going in that car?

I found myself filled with regret that  it was now too late to ask these questions. My grandma was eighty-five when she passed; most of the people who had known her then were now gone as well. The whole experience made me realize how important it is to ask about life stories from the people you love before it's too late. Now, I will never know the answers to those questions, but other people don't have to make that same mistake. Lifebio is dedicated to helping people collect life stories and memories so they will still be remembered and known for generations to come. Wouldn't you want someone to do the same for you?

Marie Coon, Lifebio 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Keep Family Stories Alive

Sharing stories encourages a closer, more meaningful relationship with your children and grandchildren. Family's stories are worth telling because you may be able to describe people, times and places that no one else in the family knows about. Lastly, you can help the next generation—inspiring, teaching and modeling strength and courage for them.