EDP Norfolk - - Columnist -

A cou­ple of months ago I sug­gested in this col­umn that elderly peo­ple in hos­pi­tal should have pho­tos of their younger selves, per­haps with their fam­i­lies, on their bed­side ta­bles. The idea was that this might en­able med­i­cal staff to see be­yond the frail, some­times con­fused, per­son and get a fuller pic­ture of the life they have led.

Af­ter the ar­ti­cle came out, I was emailed by Gio­vanna Forte, who told me she’d ac­tu­ally started a cam­paign on this very is­sue last year. It’s called Face to a Name, www.face­book.com/ face­toaname.

It came about af­ter Gio­vanna’s elderly mother was in hos­pi­tal fol­low­ing an op­er­a­tion. Gio­vanna brought in a photo of her mother that had been taken more than 30 years ear­lier. She showed it to the nurse look­ing af­ter her. The nurse started cry­ing. In­stead of Luisa, an old woman with early de­men­tia, she saw Luisa in her 40s – in her prime. Gio­vanna says it com­pletely changed the way her mother was cared for. She was no longer just an­other pa­tient, but a whole per­son.

The Face to a Name cam­paign is sim­ple: all elderly pa­tients ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal should come with a pic­ture of them­selves taken in their younger days, and three facts about their life, eg “three chil­dren, was a teacher for 40 years, loves the­atre”. Of course, lots of elderly peo­ple are able to speak for them­selves, and tell their own life sto­ries with­out any help, but for those who can’t for what­ever rea­son, this is a way to give them a voice. And surely, the more we learn about our el­ders, the more we learn from them too?

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