#GoodNewsCymru | Social enterprise | Tech for Good

A simple life story app has become a ‘lifesaver’ for isolated care home residents and their families

A simple life story app is helping families to maintain a meaningful connection with loved ones who have been isolated in care homes due to the Covid lockdown.

By Mike Erskine · 18 June 2020

See this page in: Cymraeg

A simple life story app, developed by a social enterprise based in Ruthin, is helping families to maintain a meaningful connection with loved ones who have been isolated in care homes due to the Covid lockdown.

Book of You, which operates across the UK, was originally developed as a reminiscence tool for people living with dementia, using words, pictures, music, and film to create a biographical digital portrait of its subject. Usually undertaken as a family project, the digital story book helps the user to build a familiar picture and story of someone’s life, filled with precious life events and memories. Families are able to add unlimited video and audio to the app, which can be played out to loved ones who they are currently unable to visit. It allows users to hear from familiar faces and voices, the people who know and love them best.

David Moore is the dementia lead for Methodist Homes (MHA), which looks after more than 16,000 elderly people in the UK. In late 2019, he commissioned a trial of Book of You across a number of MHA care home and retirement living schemes.

It was a fantastic tool before Covid-19, but it has become a real lifesaver for us since the virus struck. Lockdown has created a lot of anxiety for residents, their loved ones and carers. Families are desperately worried about how their loved one will cope, whether isolation will hasten their decline, and whether they will still be recognised by the time they are allowed to visit again. Book of You is helping to keep those crucial memories, connections and relationships alive.

David Moore, Dementia Lead for Methodist Homes (MHA)

How it works

  • Keeping key memories, connections, and relationships alive like a personalised memory bank, families can match their Book of You content to key memories which their loved one is still able to recall.
  • The content can be built using favourite family photographs and videos, audio messages and recordings, or by linking to favourite songs and other content on online platforms.
  • It is uploaded into a private Book of You template, and is easily viewed by logging in to the app via a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Log in details can be shared with carers where the user is in a care home setting.

Fiona’s story

Fiona’s mum Ann developed dementia in 2015. She moved from her Yorkshire family home of 52 years to a care home near Fiona’s home in Merseyside, in 2018.

Fiona started using Book of You in January 2020, and had recorded video chats with her mum and her sister Carole to include in her book, as well as photographs of happy life events, and audio of Ann’s favourite hymns and songs.

“I haven’t seen my mum now for eight and a half weeks, which is devastating really. The whole point of moving her here was to be able to visit her every single day. The carers and the care home are fantastic, but for me it was always about having someone there to say, ‘I love you mum, you’re the best mum in the world.

“Book of You is the best thing ever because you can put photographs on it with a recorded voice message. So I can post a photograph of myself with a message saying, ‘hi mum, it’s your daughter Fiona, just saying I love you’, and I’ll sing her favourite song. My girls and my husband have done messages for her too.

“She will listen to the chats my sister and I did with her which are all based around her key memories, like when her dad came back from the war, or swinging her little brother around like Tarzan when she was a little girl. Until recently, my sister and I were the only ones who knew those stories, the only ones who could help her hook into her memories. Book of You has given us a way of continuing to do that. And because they listen to it with her, her carers can help her hook into those memories now, too.

“It means so much. Mum’s dementia has made her quite anxious, and a lot of the time she doesn’t know who she is or why she’s there and it is very difficult for her to have a conversation on the phone. Hearing those familiar stories roots her, it brings her comfort and calm. She is visually impaired, so for her to hear our voices is almost as good as us being in the same room.”

Signing up to use Book of You is straightforward and user friendly, but our team is here to support anyone who needs a helping hand. Book of You is already bringing people closer together through the lockdown, and we know it could be a highly valuable tool for so many more – not just those in care homes but those who have been isolated from their families to stay safe. There has never been a better time to listen to their stories. It’s a privilege that we shouldn’t take for granted.

Kathy Barham, Director of Book of You

Individuals can subscribe to Book of You for a one-off payment of £25. Licences for organisations cost £1295, including staff and volunteer training. For more information visit: https://www.bookofyou.co.uk/