By Sean T. Powell, MSW, LCSW, CCM, OSW-C
Director of Social Work and Patient and Family Services
We all want to be sure our loved ones have something to remember us by when we are no longer here. In the world of psycho-oncology, we call this leaving a legacy. Those left behind find comfort in holding on to items that had meaning for those no longer with us and bring back memories that help us feel like we still have a connection to the person. As I look around my own home, I find my grandmother’s cookie jar, a painting that hung over my dad’s bed and a chest made by my great-grandfather. For a moment, they are here with me.
Unfortunately, not every person with cancer we see at Moffitt will survive their diagnosis. As social workers, we are trained to help individuals reflect on their lives, achievements and most prideful moments to come to peace with unfilled goals and develop a legacy for those that they leave behind. One of the ways we can help is through a legacy activity.
Through a collaboration with the Department of Social Work and the Arts In Medicine Program, Moffitt has offered the ability to capture a person’s handprint to share with loved ones. The initial process was a bit messy. Attempting to roll paint onto a hand that was sometimes weak or in pain and applying it to paper to obtain a recognizable print could be a difficult process. Due to the messy nature of paint, it did not provide the dignified experience we want for our patients and families.
The Department of Social Work has an End-of-Life Committee that reevaluated our handprints and decided more could be done to help our patients create a legacy. Through a grant from the Hank’s Hope Foundation, we were able to expand our legacy activities to include new inkless handprints, memory jars, scrapbooks and memory bracelets. These can be tailored to the individual; one child may want a bracelet while another wants a handprint. As social workers talk with patients and families about end of life, we now have an inventory of different interventions we can use to help create memories and meaningful mementos.
If you are interested in discussing end-of-life issues and creating a legacy, our Department of Social Work is ready to help you. You may request to meet with your social worker by calling 813-745-8407.