Book of dementia life stories launched in Oldham

A BOOK that captures the life stories of Oldham residents with dementia, and their carers, will launch officially with an event at Oldham Library on Friday, February 17.

‘Life Story Work with People with Dementia: Ordinary lives, Extraordinary people’ explores the life story approach to helping to care for people with dementia and how it all began in Oldham.

KaiserThe life story approach involves care staff working with carers and relatives of a person with dementia to build up a knowledge and understanding of the individual’s background. This can help them to provide better, more personal care and support.

It originated in Oldham when resident Alice Holt was diagnosed with dementia and her husband, Ken, wrote down Alice’s life story for care home staff, as he recognised how important it was for staff to know about her background.

Ken was able to tell staff of Alice’s war time fears when she would often stay dressed at night in case she had to rush to the air raid shelter. This helped staff caring for her to understand why Alice may have become agitated if they brought out her nightdress.

Ken founded the Oldham Life Story Group in 2003 and pursued his vision for a national network, leading to the launch of the national Life Story Network in 2010.

Life story work is just one technique used by staff at the Oldham Memory Service, run by Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust with Age UK Oldham and Making Space. Polly Kaiser, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Pennine Care, worked with Ken to establish the Life Story Network and was an editor on this book, along with Ruth Eley.

Polly explained: “The book is about gathering life story knowledge in one place for the first time.

“It includes contributions from many people who have been using, advocating and researching this approach for many years.

“It also has first-hand accounts from carers and relatives of people with dementia about how life story work helped them and those they cared for – even featuring a few tales from Oldham and Saddleworth.

“We hope the book will be useful not only to health and care professionals, but to people with dementia and their carers and families.”

Debbie Abrahams MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, and a Dementia Champion, will be at the launch of ‘Life Story Work with People with Dementia: Ordinary lives, Extraordinary people’ at Oldham Library on Friday 17 February from 5pm-6.30pm.

Debbie said: “I know from personal experience how important it is to preserve someone’s life story when they have dementia.

“When I cared for my mum, Angela, I used photographs to help her remember the important people and events in her life.

“But it also became clear that everyone caring for her, especially the professional carers, needed to what her life story was so they could relate to her as a person and not just a patient.

“What Polly and Ken have created is an incredibly important, and informative, book to help both busy professional carers, and family carers, record and preserve the life stories of the people they are looking after. I wish I’d had access to such a brilliant idea when Mum needed it.

“I’m very proud of the work that has been developed in Oldham over the last few years by the many groups who are pooling their resources and ideas to keep us on track to becoming the most dementia-friendly town in the UK.”

Members of the public who are interested in life story work are welcome to attend.

For more information about the national life story network, visit or for more information about Oldham Memory Service, visit



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