PROMOTING DIGNITY THROUGH EMBEDDING LIFE STORY WORK IN OLDHAM

Added on 23/07/2009

Background

Ken Holt, a former carer and very active carer representative, completed a piece of life story work on behalf of his wife, Alice, for the staff in the residential home she was moving to in July 2003. As a way of helping the staff get to know his Alice Ken prepared a brief account of his wife's life, including work and schooling, likes and dislikes, and medication. The residential home found this very valuable, and it was a productive piece of work for Ken too. He then consulted with other carers, the Carers Forum and representatives from a wide variety of statutory and voluntary agencies, (e.g. Age Concern, Social Services, Pennine Care the Primary Care Trust, and the Carers Forum.) to see if this was something that would be useful on a wider scale, especially, but not necessarily; where the person cared for needs any form of long-term care or has communication difficulties. He found that Life Story Work was going on in various service areas within Oldham. The Oldham Life Story Steering group was officially born in April 2004.

Aims

· To improve the quality of life and well being of older people.

· To work towards 'life story work' becoming integral to the care planning process for older people and their carers so as to improve the quality of care.

· To bring together agencies from Health, Social Services, the Voluntary and Independent Sector to develop a joint approach to the Life Story Work in Oldham so as to improve the quality of care for older people receiving health and social care services.

Main activities

· Delivery of life stories by Age Concern Volunteers to people in residential settings (see Box Below)

· Training for staff and carers with carers a main part of the delivery. (To date over 300 people have been trained with an average of 3 life story books being completed by half of all participants - this is an estimate of 450 life stories) A retired Pennine Care practice development facilitator, Chris Newton, in conjunction with a trainer from social services, Linda Green began to train staff in using life stories

· Research and evaluation to support further funding bids ( the steering group arranged and organised the research into the Age Concern work)

· Linking in with "making connections not assumptions" project - a BME sessional worker has been piloting the use of Life Story work in Urdu with older Pakistani women. This is being included in the training.

Achievements

In November 2005 the group won a "Pride of Oldham" award. It was then nominated for a Greater Manchester Strategic health Authority award. In 2006 not only did Oldham Life Stories win the Greater Manchester SHA Awards, it won the overall Chairman's prize "because it was a carer's idea, taken up by professionals". Then in November 2006 it won a Highly Commended National CSIP Positive Practice award.

Key outcomes

  • life story is a key objective for the local council
  • Is a key action in the most recent older people's mental health strategy for Oldham
  • Is on the recommendations of the health overview and scrutiny committee.
  • Care Managers now ask for life stories to assist in care planning.
  • It demonstrates the power of what can be achieved from bottom up ideas when people work together

Learning points

  • The importance of listening to carers.
  • This is an ongoing process that needs the commitment of a core group of people to keep it going.
  • Working together across statutory and voluntary sector has been a vital ingredient in creating an identity and raising the profile of the work. Rather than people working in isolation the steering group has been able to harness some resources and raise the profile of positive work with this client group in Oldham.

(Polly Kaiser, polly.kaiser@nhs.net on behalf of Ken Holt (carer) Linda Green (Oldham Practice Development) Chris Newton (Retired Practice development nurse), Julie McBride (Age Concern Oldham) Keren Cohen (Lancaster University) Frank Kenyon (Alzheimer's Disease Society-Oldham) Tara Caira (Oldham Carers' Centre)

(For more info on training contact Linda Green at linda.green@oldham.gov.uk).

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