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Seize the Moment: The Importance of Recording Life Stories Before Time Runs Out

Seize the Moment: The Importance of Recording Life Stories Before Time Runs Out

We're thrilled to introduce a special guest post from Carly Hickey of ACE Planning Company. Coming from an advanced care perspective, Carly passionately expresses the importance of capturing and sharing life stories. She believes we shouldn't wait for "someday" and illustrates how these tales can be essential tools in caring for our loved ones. Read on to hear her unique insights and understand why preserving memories is more than just an act of nostalgia.

 

They say the profession of nursing is both an art and a science, and deeply rooted in the underpinnings of nursing mentorship is storytelling. Storytelling is an invaluable tool amongst professionals for building rapport with patients and families in stressful circumstances.

 Adaptations of storytelling in health care include:

  1. Report at transitions of care (e.g. Emergency Department Registered Nurse gives a report to the Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse when the patient is transferred)

  2. Narrative style charting entries

  3. Morbidity and mortality rounds case reviews

  4. Unique case studies in peer-reviewed publications

  5. Cautionary tales told at interdisciplinary conferences and team debriefing after a serious or tragic outcome in nursing units

  6. A tool used to assist with teaching new healthcare professionals

  7. Medical and nursing educational case studies

  8. The list goes on….

 My most powerful illustration of storytelling is when I would provide end-of-life care to a patient in the intensive care unit. I would receive a verbal report from a nurse at the beginning of my shift, detailing the events that led the patient to the current state of health they were in, often ready or in the progress of end-of-life care. Many times, I never had the opportunity to speak to the patient directly, but I often met loved ones who were present at the bedside for their final hours. How do you not only navigate meeting strangers for the first time during the worst moment of their lives but also build rapport to establish trust and a professional therapeutic relationship?

Storytelling.

My approach was directed by a decade of well-developed nursing gestalt. Some families mourned quietly; angrily and/or privately. Most engaged in conversation and wanted to break up the monotonous beeping and stillness of an ICU room with conversation. It was these families with whom I’d say, “I’d love to know more about John. What’s your favourite story of him?”

If my instinct was right, this would spark many memories shared in waves of somber reflection, to joyous laughter and tears that were both happy and mournful. It helped me care for the patient in a deeper, more meaningful way. To learn about their amazing life and how I was shepherding them to their peaceful final resting place with dignity, warmth, and respect.

With the value storytelling adds to so many aspects of life, it comes as no surprise that No Story Lost was such a fitting extension for legacy planning.

No Story Lost prioritizes the client experience at the centre of their process. They make it easy to share your stories and photos with a creative team who can craft your legacy into a beautiful final book. Legacies captured within the pages of a hardcover book are a treasure trove of stories that can be passed down between generations. You never need to find a CD ROM player, upgrade operating system software, or use other dated technology to reach the story. No Story Lost keeps it simple and timeless.

Now more than ever, society is eager to learn about their family stories and origins through ancestral genetic DNA registries. Imagine receiving a book from a grandparent that highlights the personal and beautiful stories of their generation.

Lastly, in a world filled with “things”, gift givers are seeking more experiential gifts to give to their loved ones during the holidays. As people age, they want for less and value the meaning behind the gifts they receive. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful gesture than giving the gift of No Story Lost. This sends a message that their life has so much beauty, meaning, and worth; it should be preserved forever.

Documenting one’s legacy through storytelling requires some preparation and planning.

  1. Research – Review cost and project comparisons to determine which No Story Lost project best suits your needs.

  2. Funding - Create a way to fund the project. Siblings could pool money together as a holiday gift idea for their parents to create a story. You could set aside a small amount of money for each paycheque in a savings account. You could also factor this into your retirement planning with a financial advisor. End-of-life and funeral pre-arrangement planning is also growing as a proactive planning measure and could be planned at this time as well.

  3. Timing – This is the most important consideration from a healthcare perspective. Many people miss the ideal time to ask their elderly family members stories about their life. The best time to do this is sooner than later – when you’re young and healthy. Based on my experience, I would say 60s is a good timeframe. Sudden illness or disease can come at any time, and the older an individual is (taking into account their baseline level of health and pre-existing health problems), the less resilient they are in bouncing back from a major illness.

    I know what you’re thinking – “What about the memories and stories we make after my parents are in their 60s?” For one, it is a blessing to make it to our older years with our aging parents with a fulsome quality of life that allows your family to continue to make wonderful memories. You, the adult child, are now part of those stories and have an opportunity to share in documenting that second volume of memories. You also have the opportunity to start creating your own No Story Lost anthology for your future family. The stories that preceded you in the earlier phase of your parents’ life are the treasure we want to secure within the pages of a No Story Lost book.

  4. Inheritance – Documents like these are precious and sometimes something families “fight” over. Extra copies can be ordered later if more copies are desired. Included with each No Story Lost book is a PDF version that can be kept forever.

By working with an advanced care planning company like ACE Planning Company, we can help determine the most appropriate timeframe for your story legacy planning project to begin. For families with loved ones with neurodegenerative disease who experience delirium, ACE Planning Company can also help determine the best times for scheduling the No Story Lost interviews, based on optimal times of lucidity in consultation with the family.

I know professionally and personally, the pain you feel when your loved one is gone and you forget a story that they told you about their life. I would give anything to go back and document these if I could. Please consider my story and a decade of expertise as a cautionary tale to capture those beautiful stories proactively while you have the chance. I went into the nursing profession to help and care for others. What I never imagined I would take away from my career is a collection of incredible life stories and lessons learned from my patients and their families. For this reason, I believe in the mission of No Story Lost and the gift they are giving to generations of families through legacy work.

 

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