When dad was in the hospital I felt he was not seen as a total person – just a patient. I wanted to bring in pictures of him but there wasn’t any place to put them. In the hospice there was a nice piece of furniture that held not only his clothing, a small refrigerator and a television, but also had many shelves for personal items.
I brought in many of dad’s favorite pictures. I had pictures of mom and dad together, pictures of dad with his brothers in their military uniforms from World War II, etc. In addition, I brought in many of the memory books I had made for mom and dad over the years.
I set the memory books on the shelves, open to pictures of dad also. I also had calendars with pictures of mom and dad that were set up on those shelves. I had them there to make the room feel like home to dad and to us as well.
Soon I realized that all of dad’s caregivers – his doctor, his nurses, his nurses’ aides, etc. had sat down in dad’s room and read his books. Even the social worker knew about dad’s life from reading his memory books.
The doctor told me he thought it was wonderful how they were all able to get to know dad better through the pictures and especially the memory books. The social worker realized that dad was proud to be a US Marine (“once a Marine, always a Marine”). When the Vietnam Veteran called to say he was coming to bring dad a quilt, she told him dad was a Marine, and the veteran volunteer brought dad a quilt specifically made for a Marine.
The wonderful thing about hospice is that all of the caregivers were dedicated to just a few patients. The same caregivers saw dad each day and they got to know him and our family. I believe these memory books were a significant help in allowing dad’s caregivers to get to know him as a person. Even though dad was unable to speak by the time he arrived in hospice, the caregivers all talked to him and talked about the life he had lived and his family as they saw it in the memory books.
So, even though I have written about the importance of memory books before, I want to reiterate how they contributed to dad’s personalized care during his last illness. Now those same books are ours to review and remember the ones who was so important in our lives.