Students Staff

28 May 2013

Putting life stories at the heart of care service

Colchester Campus

Enhancing the care of people with dementia is at the heart of a new research project being carried out in Essex.

The joint project, between the University of Essex and North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, involves investigating how tailoring a person’s care based on their life story can improve the support they receive.

The two-year study will be based at North Essex Partnership’s Emerald Centre in Colchester, the local dementia service for north Essex which offers a range of care and support services for people with dementia and their carers.

Project researcher Steve Wood, a mental health lecturer at the University, said the study will find out more about the person with dementia to help give them a unique care plan, which in turn will strengthen relationships between practitioners, the person and their carers.

“Everybody’s experience is different and based on their own life journey,” explained Mr Wood. “So we want to treat people with dementia as individuals and tailor their care plan accordingly. It is all about seeing the person and caring for that individual and not just the illness.”

The life-story work can be anything from a scrapbook to a photo album, but will be an important resource when developing care plans for someone with dementia. One example where a life story has already helped with a care plan involved an elderly man who was often agitated in the morning when woken up in his care home. It was discovered that when he still lived in his own home he liked a cup of tea in bed before getting up and to listen to the radio. By making this change to his care plan he was happier and no longer agitated in the morning.

“For vulnerable people sometimes simple things can lead to confusion and we hope the person-centred life story approach to care planning will help with this,” added Mr Wood.

Also involved in the project, which is being funded by a legacy from a patient’s family, is the Alzheimer's Society and Essex County Council.

Note to Editors
For more information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or e-mail

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