Life story work - a new approach to the person centred supporting of older adults with an intellectual disability in Norway. A qualitative study of the impact of life story work on storytellers and their interlocutors
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Older Norwegian adults with an intellectual disability are today more integrated into society than earlier generations. Some represent the last of the generation that experienced and can talk about childhoods in central institutions and about living under the World War II Nazi regime. The closure of Norwegian institutions, which took place in the1990s, was based on social valuation theories. The post-closure situation for people with intellectual disabilities, their staff and local authorities was very different form what they had experienced previously, local authorities being responsible for providing person-centred services. This thesis examines whether life story work represents an effective approach to the person-centred support of older adults with an intellectual disability, through examining the impact of this work on services users (‘storytellers’) and their life story work supporters (‘interlocutors’). ‘The life story model of identity’ developed primarily by the American psychologist and professor Dan P. McAdams, is a major contribution to the thinking of this study. The model emphasises the importance of service providers’ understanding and knowledge of their service users’ life stories. A combination of critical realism and interpretative phenomenology analysis is advanced as a suitable joint philosophical framework for investigating the impact life story work has on both storytellers with intellectual disabilities (aged 45+) and on the interlocutors they personally chose from their staff group. The Delphi technique was used in a preparatory phase of interviews of six experienced life story workers from three different countries. A Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach was used to prepare the intervention, to develop the LSW programme and for pre- and post-interviews. 38 participants from day centres and residential settings in Norway took part in the study. The results indicate that even staff who had known storytellers for a long time learned new and valuable information. They came into possession of a better understanding of the service users’ behaviour and the interlocutors’ attitudes to service users were changed by the experience of carry out life story work with them. The interlocutors stated that they considered life story work to be ‘important’ in today’s services. The storytellers experienced increased feelings of safety and greater awareness of their abilities, life span (roots) and of themselves as a person (identity and personal development). They expressed pride in their life story work and appreciated the time they had spent talking and working alone with their interlocutors. Storytellers and interlocutors both said that life story work had brought them closer together and the love and appreciation they had for each other was a clear result of the time they had spent together. The eight week programme was, however, also challenging for the interlocutors who had problems finding the opportunity to conduct two hours work a week without interruption from other contextual influences.