Recording your life story improves quality of life and will to live

November 21, 2017

Dying dignity: Palliative care is more effective with Dignity Therapy that helps people record their life story

Research shows that helping people in palliative care or nearing death to record their life story improves their quality of life and will to live, according to Murdoch University lecturer and expert in Dignity Therapy Dr Brenda Bentley.

Dr Bentley from the School of Health Professionals said that families even believed the simple psychotherapy was as important in their loved one’s treatment as medical care.

Dr Bentley is running a unique training course in Dignity Therapy to equip allied health workers, doctors and nurses with the skills to lead people step-by-step through the simple process of creating a written record to leave behind.

“Dignity Therapy is a psychotherapy performed with people facing death to help them explore their impact on the world and help them to reclaim their identity. It involves the creation of a life review document that is shared with others.

“By giving dying people a say in how they are remembered, dignity therapy can help people accept death.

“It also means they can do something for their loved ones that will endure beyond their own life and which helps their families deal with grief.

Dr Bentley said the therapy should be considered a valuable part of the tool kit for working with people who are dying.

“There are few empirically-validated approaches that help people in palliative care but this has been shown to help affirm a dying person’s identity and the legacy they are leaving behind,” she said.

“It is non-invasive, brief and can be done at the bedside.”

The findings of a randomized trial of patients who had participated in dignity therapy found that they gained an increased sense of dignity (76%), purpose (68%) and meaning (67%) in life.

Importantly also, a majority of family members also reported they were helped during their time of grief (78%) and they believed it was as important an aspect of care as any other provided for their loved one.

Gaynor Ridley’s husband Roger received Dignity Therapy when he was dying of Motor Neurone Disease and said it was a great support for the family.

“Roger had lived a very varied and interesting life and it concerned me that he would die without having told his story,” she said.

“The kids just loved getting their own book of his life which they will treasure for the rest of their life because we all miss him so much.

“I couldn’t recommend it enough to others and believe everyone should receive this therapy.”

Register here for the practical, interactive 2.5 day course to be held at Murdoch University on 29 November to 1 December.



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