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Life story books for people with dementia: a systematic review

  • Teuntje R. Elfrink (a1), Sytse U. Zuidema (a2), Miriam Kunz (a2) and Gerben J. Westerhof (a1)



There is an increasing evidence that reminiscence therapy is effective in improving cognitive functions and reducing depressive symptoms in people with dementia. Life story books (LSBs) are frequently used as a reminiscence tool to support recollecting autobiographical memories. As little is known about how LSBs are used and what type of studies have been employed to evaluate LSB interventions, we conducted a systematic review.


The electronic databases Scopus, PubMed, and PsychINFO as well as reference lists of existing studies were searched to select eligible articles. Out of the 55 studies found, 14 met the inclusion criterion of an original empirical study on LSBs in people with dementia.


The majority of the LSBs were tangible books, although some digital applications were also found. The LSBs were created mostly in individual sessions in nursing homes with a median of six sessions. Some studies only focused on the person with dementia, while others also examined (in)formal caregivers. Most studies used qualitative interviews, case studies, and/or (pilot) randomized controlled trial (RCTs) with small sample sizes. Qualitative findings showed the value of LSBs in triggering memories and in improving the relation with the person with dementia. Quantitative effects were found on, e.g. autobiographical memory and depression of persons with dementia, quality of relationship with informal caregivers, burden of informal caregivers, and on attitudes and knowledge of formal caregivers.


This systematic review confirms that the use of LSBs to support reminiscence and person-centered care is promising, but larger RCTs or implementation studies are needed to establish the effects of LSBs on people with dementia.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Teuntje R. Elfrink, MSc, Department of Psychology, Health and Technology, University of Twente, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, the Netherlands. Email:


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