Pictures of Her
Family photos bring a human dimension to critical care
When our mother Pearl was in critical care at the end of her life, she was completely unknown to the healthcare team who cared for her. To the nurses, she was just the patient full of tubes in room so-and-so, with a certain diagnosis on her chart. As they worked to keep her condition stable, they had no idea who she was, what she did in her life or what she meant to the people who loved her.
We decided to place one of our parents’ wedding photos at our mother’s bedside, along with a family picture of us all in Paris. The pictures gave the staff and doctors an opportunity to see our mother in some of the happiest days of her life.
Perhaps for a moment, she became not a dying, elderly patient with a swollen face, but a young bride, happy wife and loving mother. In those pictures, she remains alive and beautiful.
In nursing school, we’re told that hearing is both the first sense to return to a patient recovering from a coma and the last sense to leave a dying patient. However, there is another sense that the staff needs to remember: the sense of sight. If the care team is able to see a dying patient not just as she looks lying in a hospital bed, but as she was during the prime of her life, it can have a powerful impact on how the patient is cared for.
It was interesting to see and hear the comments from the staff regarding the pictures. One doctor told a nurse that our parents’ wedding photo was how pictures were taken back in 1939. The pictures provided a human connection beyond care plans and clinical protocols.
We recommend that nurses suggest to the families of dying or critically ill patients to bring pictures of their loved one to place at the bedside. It provides the nurses with a deeper compassion for the patients in their care — even if those patients are in their final days.
Sisters Carol Bloch, RN, Ph.D., CTN-A, CNS, and Carolyn Bloch, RN, Ph.D., CTN-A, CNS, are transcultural nurse scholars, transcultural nurse consultants and nurse educators who lecture and create programs on cultural issues for healthcare providers in various public and private settings.
This article is from workingnurse.com.