In Part One, I wrote about the need to be familiar with the academic research on life stories and palliative care. In Part Two, I want to highlight five other factors to consider when establishing a life stories program at your local hospice. If you want to be credible and succeed, here’s what to do:
- Become a hospice volunteer. This is the route I took. If you’re going to work with people at the end of life, it helps immeasurably if you’re trained as a hospice volunteer. First, you gain experience and a level of comfort being with people who are dying. Second, it signals to the hospice administration that you are serious and committed to helping patients in palliative care. Third, and most importantly, you become a familiar and trusted part of the hospice care team.
- Keep your hospice “life stories” work separate from your personal history business. It’s critical to your success in establishing a program to assure hospice administration that you’re not using the hospice to recruit clients for your business. I’ve been scrupulous in not mixing my business with my hospice work.
- Find a hospice manager who’ll champion your idea. In most cases this individual will be the person responsible for volunteer services or it might be the manager of psychosocial services or spiritual care. This will be the person you’ll need to convince that a life stories program is worthwhile and complements other hospice services. This manager will also have to bring other members of the hospice management team on board with your idea. It’s important that you establish a good rapport with your “champion”.
- Keep it simple. You want to keep the time and costs involved to a minimum, especially because you’re providing a free service. This is why the program I initiated at Victoria Hospice only offers unedited audio recordings of patient interviews. Do make sure that the Hospice covers the cost of any materials you provide.
- Build in a program to train other life story volunteers. It’s inevitable that you’ll soon find there are more requests than you can handle. Besides, you’ll not be able to devote all your time to offering a free service unless you’re fabulously wealthy! Here’s another point to take into consideration. Ideally, you should be planning for a program that will continue even when you’re no longer involved.
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