Background Legacy activities are a valuable part of supporting people to ‘live until they die’; they can help give a sense of control and increase perceptions of meaning which may address spiritual and psychosocial distress (Sadler-Gerhardt & Hollenbach. Legacy work: Helping clients with life-threatening illness to preserve memories, beliefs, and values for loved ones. 2011). Using the basic premise of dignity therapy we record memories, lessons learned in life, also hopes and dreams for loved ones in the future (Montross-Thomas, Irwin, Meier, et al. BMC Palliat Care. 2015, 14:44). The project has been co-designed with two bereaved parents whose son died in the hospice, they realised they had no recordings of his voice, but do have memories of him playing Blackbird on his guitar, a song that had significance to their family.
Aims Erikson suggests a person’s last developmental task is to reflect on their past, in order to find integration and wholeness (Scheck. Stages of psychosocial development according to Erik Erikson. 2014). This project aims to offer people the chance to engage in this process whilst leaving a tangible item for their loved ones.
Methods Patients are made aware of the project via brochures and staff members. They are supported to prepare what they wish to record, and recording sessions then take place. The recordings are transferred onto blackbird-shaped USB sticks which can be given to patients or family members after death. The project is occupational therapy led, with expert volunteers supporting the team.
Results The Blackbird Project was launched in 2019 but was limited by COVID-19 restrictions and could only take place on our inpatient units. Since 2022 we have been able to offer home visits and outpatient appointments to increase our reach. We have completed more than 100 recordings. Qualitative data from participants and bereaved relatives show high satisfaction with the service. At the end of 2022 we delivered training to another hospice who have adopted the Blackbird Project and are ready to launch in Spring 2023.
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