Dignity Therapy

AA036557We all have stories…a legacy document keeps them alive forever!

Frequently families and patients feel helpless; struggling against the situations they find themselves in when they are facing death or a serious long term, life threatening illness. This feeling is perfectly normal but the stress involved can be reduced. One way for both families and patients to increase a sense of control over their lives during this period is through the use of a process known as Dignity Therapy to create a Legacy Document, the story of the patient’s life as told by her/him. Rigorous evaluation has shown this clinically proven process to be extremely beneficial to both patients and their families. This type of therapy is groundbreaking and only offered in this area by Mountain Valley Hospice.

NEW!   Now Available: Give a Legacy Document as a Gift!

After offering the Legacy Document to just Hospice patients, we have now expanded the program to all who may be interested.  Certainly a loving gift for someone who has everything and needs nothing more….but perhaps to have their stories passed down to other generations! You will be given a Gift Certificate and an outline of the Legacy Document creation process to give to your loved one.  They will then be able to set up the interview process at their convenience.  Creating a Legacy document continues to be available to all hospice patients without cost; however, for non-hospice patients the cost is $150 for the entire process which includes one copy of a professionally designed and professionally printed Legacy Document (with additional copies for $30 each).  Call our office at (518)725-4545 and let us know you are interested in giving the gift of a Legacy Document.

What is a Legacy Document?

At the request of a patient or caregiver, a trained professional meets with the patient and through a series of questions, invites them to recall events, relationships, feelings and philosophies, memories of some of the most important things that happened in their life. The resulting story is known as a “Legacy Document” and is then given by the patient to family and friends to live on for many generations to come.

History of Dignity Therapy

Dignity Therapy was developed by Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov to assist people dealing with the imminent end of their lives, and now for people dealing with a serious, long-term illness.

Dignity Therapy is not a historical recounting of events – it is a recounting of thoughts, ideas and events that are particularly relevant and meaningful for patients to recount and pass along to others. For most patients, it is an opportunity to share the moments that shaped their lives.

It addresses the patient’s need to feel that life has had meaning, and to do something for loved ones that will endure beyond the patient’s own life. It also helps the patient get in touch with the accomplishments and experiences that have made them unique and valued human beings.

Chochinov said some patients used dignity therapy as a last opportunity to share recollections, to extend their influence after their death, and to express feelings of love and appreciation for life’s blessings. He said many also discussed things that were difficult, tragic or sad, such as expressions of remorse or regret, apologies, and requests for forgiveness. Some family members said that the only time they heard their parents say they loved them or were proud of them was in the dignity therapy document.

Capturing the patient’s thoughts in written form is particularly effective because it increases the sense that whatever is said will be preserved for the future.

During a 30 to 60 minute session, a trained interviewer asks a series of open-ended questions that encourage patients to talk about their lives or what matters most to them. The conversation is recorded, transcribed, edited and then returned within a few days to the patient, who is given the opportunity to read the transcript and make changes before a final version is produced. Many choose to share the document with family and friends.

Questions asked during Dignity Therapy

  • “Tell me a little about your life history, particularly the parts that you either remember most, or think are the most important. When did you feel most alive?”
  • “Are there specific things that you would want your family to know about you, and are there particular things you would want them to remember?”
  • “What are the most important roles you have played in life (family roles, vocational roles, community service roles, etc.)? Why were they so important to you, and what do you think you accomplished in those roles?”
  • “What are your most important accomplishments, and what do you feel most proud of?”
  • “Are there particular things that you feel still need to be said to your loved ones, or things that you would want to take the time to say once again?”
  • “What are your hopes and dreams for your loved ones?”
  • “What have you learned about life that you would want to pass along to others? What advice or words of guidance would you wish to pass along to your (son, daughter, husband, wife, parents, others)?”
  • “Are there words or perhaps even instructions you would like to offer your family to help prepare them for the future?”
  • “In creating this permanent record, are there other things that you would like included?”

What is the cost?

Mountain Valley Hospice offers this tool at absolutely no cost because it helps patients and their families and has been clinically proven to be effective for the patient.

Do I have to be a patient with Mountain Valley Hospice?

No. The only requirements are that you have a serious long term, life threatening illness and be cognitively sound.

How do I start?

Tell your nurse, social worker or caregiver or call Mountain Valley Hospice at (518) 725-4545 and let us know you are interested in creating a Legacy Document.

See our feature on WNYT with Benita Zahn here http://wnyt.com/article/stories/S3464323.shtml?cat=300