PUTTING A FACE TO THE NAME
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?