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What are the benefits and problems of encouraging people who are receiving care to talk about their past? What skills and sensitivities are required by workers to be able to undertake this work successfully?

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Introduction

What are the benefits and problems of encouraging people who are receiving care to talk about their past? What skills and sensitivities are required by workers to be able to undertake this work successfully? For some people receiving care it can be difficult to maintain a sense of who they are, life experiences "can threaten or undermine people's ability to sustain or communicate their identity, a sense of who they are" (Unit 14, p.57). Whilst there are many benefits to encouraging people to talk about their past there can also be many problems, both for the carer and the cared for. To ensure a successful outcome a wide range of "skills and sensitivities" would be needed. Life story work is used with children and young people who, for whatever reason, need to talk about their past. Children and young people who have been separated from their birth parents and family could suffer from attachment disorder with problems and issues over their identity, "their past may be lost, much of it forgotten" (Offprints, p.73). This could lead to low self-esteem and self worth with feelings of "apathy and a depressed fatalistic outlook" (Offprints p.74), feeling worthless with problems moving forward and developing emotionally. To deal with their separation or loss children and young people can be helped and encouraged to talk about and look at their past through life story work, this could be in the form of a book, photo album, video or audio tape. ...read more.

Middle

Older people who are receiving care, either in a residential setting or in their own homes as an 'only survivor' may find it difficult to hang on to the parts of their lives which give them their identity. Opportunities to talk about past life experiences and interests may have decreased with the loss of family and friends. Because our past and our interests reflect what we find meaningful in life this loss of opportunity can be devastating. "Reminiscing is a central core in the identity of older people" (Coleman 1993 pp 19-20 Unit 14 p.45). This can be particularly difficult if you are growing old in a different country and culture to where you grew up. The older man from the Caribbean, quoted in Unit 14, p.43, says that "as you get older it's about reminiscences" and "by the time I reach 60 I will revert back to talking about family history and the importance of childhood in the Caribbean" although he also says that "you cannot have those reminiscences in and old people's home in this country". His cultural roots and his past are clearly important to him and this should be recognised, encouraging him to talk about these things would allow him to reinforce his identity and his culture. Listening to people relate their past history can offer an insight into the emotional needs of a person, "there is research evidence which suggests that with opportunities ...read more.

Conclusion

Being a good, active listener and being supportive and showing sympathy can help build trust. It is important to be aware of not imposing your own views and to let people tell you about his or her life in their own way. When working with children and young people on a life story book the carer needs to be sensitive to the child's emotions and be patient, particularly if the child becomes disruptive or distressed when talking about past events. Being trustworthy and maintaining confidentiality whilst keeping in mind child protection issues is important to make the child/young person feel that there story is safe. Ryan and Walker emphasise that "Listening to children and respecting their views (Unit 14 p.18) is good practice", the child's/young persons wishes must be paramount. Memories are subjective. We remember our lives through many different lenses seeing different scenes as important at different times. Talking about and sharing memories and personal stories is a way to start looking at our lives as interesting and important and perhaps gain or maintain a sense of identity. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines self-identity as "the attribution of certain characteristics or qualities to oneself" and self-image as "the idea one has of one's abilities, appearance and personality". Encouraging people to talk about their past can be a positive way of reinforcing a person's own identity, helping people talk about what is meaningful to them affirms them and their life experiences, it is the story of their life and it is unique. ...read more.

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