Here at Barts Health, we have begun giving out treasured memory boxes to bereaved families. These boxes can be filled with special things belonging to the patient, and the objects and messages within them help remind loved ones of happy times spent together. Finding ways to remember the person who has died, and to take their memory forward, can be a helpful part of the grieving process and making the box together can be a comforting way for families to make their final memories.
The boxes might include photos, favourite music, recipes, the patients hand prints, a box for a lock of hair and gifts. They could also include a card where the patient can either write or dictate a letter to their loved ones, a candle and two teddies - one to stay with the patient and one for the family. The box has a slot for a photograph which the family can put in and it has space for the family to add any other objects they would like to include.
Bereft families or loved ones may want to spend a lot of time looking at the box initially after their loss, while others put the box aside for days, weeks, months or even years before feeling ready to pick it up again. It’s there for whenever they’re ready.
Hand print kits are offered to end of life care patients so that they can be captured, and the family can chose a number of ways to use them, including in the making of jewellery. The kits have been used in paediatric end of life care for some time but in recent years, hand prints at end of life have become increasingly popular in adult end of life care.
Shanthini Avorgbedor, end of life care education facilitator at Whipps Cross Hospital commented: “Because of the restrictions in place at the moment to limit the spread of coronavirus, some people are currently unable to be with their loved ones during their final hours in hospital. We know that the memory boxes will not give them the time back, but we do hope that they will offer them a little comfort at this difficult time, letting them know we are thinking of them.”
Ward manager, Joscia, added: “We hope that the memory box will serve as a comfort and treasure to families and will allow them to have physical memories of their loved ones forever“.