Keepsakes at the End of Life Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • CONTEXT: Keepsakes are a relatively unexplored form of bereavement support that is frequently provided as part of the 3 Wishes Project (3WP). The 3WP is a palliative care intervention in which individualized wishes are implemented in the adult intensive care unit for dying patients and their families. OBJECTIVES: We aimed to characterize and enumerate the keepsakes that were created as part of the 3WP and to understand their value from the perspective of bereaved family members. METHODS: We performed a secondary analysis of family interviews during a multicenter study on the 3WP and characterized all wishes that involved keepsakes. Sixty interviews with family members regarding the 3WP were reanalyzed using qualitative analysis to identify substantive themes related to keepsakes. RESULTS: Of 730 patients, 345 (47%) received keepsakes as part of their participation in 3WP. Most keepsakes were either tangible items that served as reminders of the patient's presence (thumbprints and locks of hair) or technology-assisted items (photographs and word clouds). The median cost per keepsake wish was $8.50 (interquartile range $2.00-$25.00). Qualitative analysis revealed two major themes: keepsakes are tangible items that are highly valued by family members; and the creation of the keepsake with clinical staff is valued and viewed as a gesture of compassion. CONCLUSION: Keepsakes are common wishes that clinicians in the intensive care unit are able to provide and sometimes cocreate with families when patients are dying. Both the offering to create the keepsake and receipt of the final product are perceived by family members as helpful.

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publication date

  • November 2020