There are various ways that reminiscence and life review work can be used in geriatric care management and social work. Life stories are an excellent way to build relationships with your clients. Here's how and why it works:

#1 - Open a door to new conversation. Really get to know the client in a deeper way. One of the core problems that faces older adults is that professional caregivers really don't know them...and their family members may not either. The clinical lists of questions hit the surface level or medical history information, but never come close to the core of this complex human being's life. The interview will be more valuable if it goes deeper to help you learn about the people who shaped this person, the historical events that had a profound impact, the childhood memories that bring comfort and joy, the accomplishments during adulthood, and the most important beliefs and values that drive decision making and choice. Older people are craving the opportunity to tell their life stories in many cases. You can open the door to new conversations that will help them see their whole life in a more meaningful way. Idea: Story Cards could help.

#2 - Impact health & wellness. Reminiscence touches ALL dimensions of wellness...especially the tougher emotional and spiritual dimensions. It is also an excellent brain fitness activity and it is used routinely with people with early-stage Alzheimer's, providing how to write an autobiography without delay.

#3 - Make a true friend. Use the stories and experiences to help build an authentic relationship. What if this person's memories of working with their parents in the cotton fields are more important right now than talking about how breakfast was or how their knee is feeling today? Because reminiscence has been found to promote happiness and purposefulness, it is important to be spending time just listening, asking questions, and enjoying the complexity and uniqueness of this amazing person that sits before you. What a privilege it is to be the one who listens and learns and cares. That's why you do the work you do.

#4 - Be a bridge builder. See your work as building a new bridge or repair a bridge between older generations and younger generations in the family. Sometimes families or other caregivers need to know more about the person to really understand and have empathy and truly love and care. The more we know, the more we love. Frankly, in your work as a geriatric care manager or geriatric social worker, you may know more about someone's own mother or grandmother's life story than an adult child does. As older people approach the end of their lives, let's hope for some "Ah ha" moments of "I never heard that story before!" or "Wow, grandma I didn't realize you lived through the Dust Bowl" or "Grandpa, you were really handsome when you played football back in high school." In other words, the family can start the see the WHOLE person, not just an old person. Perhaps you can encourage the family to spend some priceless moments together to write an autobiography or the biography of a loved one.
Idea: Life Story Journals could help.

Keep up the great work. It is hard work but worth it and much needed in a society where ageism is alive and well. Working together, we can change to see older people as an incredible resource and source of wisdom in our society. Keep connecting, listening to life stories, building relationships, and loving. That's all that really matters in the end....people are seeking more love.

Looking for a speaker on this topic? Needing more tools for reminiscence and life story recording? Call 1-866-543-3246 or email for details.