Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hospice Volunteers to Become "Storycatchers"

Last month (Aug. 2 blog entry), I wrote about Christina Baldwin's new book, Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story, noting that it is an excellent guide for "catching" the stories in your life that you'd like to include in your ethical will. I've recently found another wonderful way to use "storycatching": to enhance the lives of hospice patients and their families.

After reading my blog, our hospice volunteer coordinator (at the local hospice I've served as a volunteer for six years) contacted me to explore the possibility of adding "storycatcher" training to their curriculum for volunteer training. Some families had previously requested a volunteer to record a patient's stories for their children and grandchildren to listen to in the future. (I had recorded stories of an elderly gentleman on hospice a few years ago -- an experience which ultimately led me to the subject of ethical wills!).

A couple of weeks ago, the hospice volunteer coordinator and I met to discuss how to introduce "storycatching" to current volunteers and the hospice team. We also planned a program about it for our upcoming monthly hospice volunteer potluck. Then last week, I met with the hospice team to discuss the idea and their role in offering the services of volunteers to "catch" stories of patients on audio or videotape for families. Since many of them had enjoyed hearing lots of stories from patients in their work (and knew of patients who had recorded family and personal stories before their death), there was excitement over the prospect of having volunteers available to serve as a "storycatcher" for their patients.

I'm looking forward to doing part of the training for volunteers and helping in the development of "tell me about ..." questions and a "listening" guide for use in recording the stories of hospice patients.

Knowing how much I would love to be able to listen today to the stories told by my father, grandmothers, and grandfathers, I have a sense of the meaning that recorded life stories of hospice patients will have for their family members (and future generations).

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