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Memory boxes help families who lose a loved one

Published 04/03/2016

HELPING families in their hour of need is the motivation behind a new initiative introduced by a caring nurse in the Royal Derby Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

Senior Sister Helen Frost has developed a scheme to hand out memory boxes to families after a relative dies, in the hope it will ease their pain, and give them something to look back on in the future.

The boxes have been well-received by families, with many people coming back to tell staff how valuable they have been – and how much they appreciate the support.

Helen said: “For me, it’s about quality of care. We have to look after the families as well. After a patient dies, it often feels as if we can’t do anything to help, so this is our way of doing that, and trying to make this painful experience a little bit easier for the families. I’m so pleased they have gone down so well, and people like to have them. People really don’t expect anything after a patient dies, and they are often a bit overwhelmed to be given something like this, especially if the death has been a shock.”

The boxes contain a candle, an angel, and a card from staff in the unit, along with some Forget-Me-Not seeds and other items. Families can have locks of hair, hand prints, or other personal items included, and for patients who have been in Intensive Care for a while, diaries which document their treatment can be included.

Tara Clee, who received one of the memory boxes after her mother died last year, found the items brought real comfort at a difficult time.

Christine Clee died suddenly, after suffering a bleed on the brain. She was 66.

Tara, who is a nurse in Intensive Care, said the care she received from her colleagues at that time was ‘amazing’.

“It was very difficult, but all the staff were fantastic. I can’t thank them enough. Everything they did was so sensitive. It was sudden, and it was such a shock, but they were amazing. It made me proud to work in the unit.

“The memory box was lovely. It wasn’t until a few months after that I could look at it, but it was such a comfort. When you’re in your worst hours, it’s lovely to know there are people that will help you like this. It meant the world; it’s such a lovely thing to do,” she said.

Tara was so grateful for the care that she and her mum received, that she asked for donations for Intensive Care at her mum’s funeral. Family and friends donated £1,700, some of which will be used to create memory boxes for other families.

The memory boxes are donated by the charity 4Louis, and Helen fills them with items purchased through charitable funds. The boxes are handed out free of charge.

“It’s my way of giving something back,” Helen said.

Helen has now been rewarded for her caring actions with a Pride of Derby Award. Judges who picked her as Best Frontline Member of Staff said: “Her actions captured the essence of caring and compassion, recognising that this environment can be overpowering for relatives. Helen’s actions have been successful in preserving the moment after the event, putting patients first, even after their death.”


POD Helen Frost
Last Modified 04/03/2016