Background Oral history is the audio recording of unique life experience. Participants are involved in producing their own life histories, in their own voice, with no medical agenda. Oral history in palliative care began as a service in Sheffield in 2007 with Sheffield Hospitals Charity. In 2012 Macmillan Cancer Support piloted five further services in the North of England and Northern Ireland.
Aim To assess the impact of recording an oral history in palliative care and to understand how the recording is received by family in bereavement.
Methods The study conducted semi-structured interviews with people associated with oral history in Sheffield. Thirty two interviews were carried out with 10 patients; 9 bereaved family members; 6 health and social care professional; 7 bereavement support volunteers.
Results People who had made recordings said that it was an enjoyable experience and that creating a family record was important to them. Bereaved family and friends stressed that having a voice recording was important for them and a comfort to listen to. The process of making the recording brought families together to share memories and find connexions and meanings.
Conclusion Oral history interviewees, their family, bereavement volunteers and health professionals were enthusiastic about oral history. The research highlighted that creating a personal voice legacy can be an act of caring by the dying person, to help families subsequently cope with loss. The oral history process is seen as positive for the well-being of individuals in palliative care and bereaved family and friends.
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