Patients who have been admitted to Intensive Care often have little or no memory of their stay. Their memory for this time can be affected by the illness itself or the sedative drugs we give to our patients to keep them comfortable.
Although the doctors and nurses explain to patients why they were admitted and what we are doing to them and why, patients often forget they have been told. Some patients will experience frightening nightmares or hallucinations and still remember them after discharge. This can be frightening and troubling as they often make no sense. Critical illness can affect the memory and like a puzzle, pieces need to be fitted together to make sense.
To help patients understand more about their illness and Intensive Care stay we have introduced Patient Diaries. A diary of events has been shown to reduce stress in patients after they are discharged from the unit.
The nursing staff will make entries to explain why they were admitted to Intensive Care, and what has been happening to them while they have been induced in a coma. We encourage family and friends to write in the diary as well to help “fill the gaps” and personalise it for them.
Suggestions on what to write
How they are progressing, what has happened them to them that day, family news and events, birthdays, enquiries from friends, local and international news, football scores, music. You can draw, sketch, add newspaper clippings. Anything you think they would be interested in and will help them piece together the puzzle. If you are unsure what to write the nurses will be happy to advise.
We ask the hospital medical photographer to visit the unit and take a photograph of our sedated patients. Evidence has shown that patients benefit from seeing a photograph of themselves, as they often have no comprehension of how ill they have been and therefore have unrealistic expectations of the time it will take to recover. The photograph is only given to the patient when they are recovered and if they wish to see it. This can be upsetting for the patient and loved one but we are there to support you. If the patient does not want to see the photograph it is destroyed. A page in the diary will be kept blank for this photograph.
Nurses are available to discuss the diary with the patient once they are recovered or when they attend the Follow Up Clinic or at a Steps meeting. Please see other pages about our follow up service and Steps groups these have been set up to support patients through the recovery from critical illness.