A biography program is being run out of Adelaide’s Modbury Hospital palliative care unit as a way to help people gain some lasting memories of their loved ones before they die.
Adelaide man Sam Peters became a full-time carer to his nan, Shirley Adams, before she died aged 84 back in March.
Now his family has some special memories, written down and bound, as a lasting reminder.
“We had a very close relationship,” he said. “She was a character, the biggest character you could meet.
“She was always up for a laugh, she was just funny and loved to entertain. Even my friends called her Nan.”
Ms Adams’ daughter Gaylene said the biography would help the family look back on special times.
“Sam took her to Wallaroo on the day before her 84th birthday,” she said.
“I think she wanted to see 84 and then she lasted that day … Sam was there.”
In her final months, Ms Adams made a road trip across Victoria and went on a three-day cruise, both with her grandson by her side.
The palliative care staff at Modbury are driving the biographies effort.
“It’s actually amazing. The biography is written as she would speak and as we all have our individual ways, don’t we?” Mr Peters said.
Biographer Sue Fraser (L) chronicled the family story, to share with Sam and Gaylene. (ABC News: Caroline Winter)
Before her death, the Adelaide grandmother shared details of her long life with volunteer biographer Sue Fraser.
“It was the first one I got to complete, because often people start but it’s too late,” the author said.
‘I’ve always been a good listener’
Fraser has worked on nine biographies over the time she has been volunteering.
It involves making an audio recording, then transcribing it and creating a print and version for the family.
“I’ve always been a good listener … it’s a very comfortable thing to do and often quite a joyful thing to do,” Fraser said.
Her view is that biographies should be worked on for more than just people who are elderly or unwell.
Fraser said she lost her father when she was just 12 and wishes she had more memories of his life.
“It would have made a difference for me to have had that from him — something he had written for me as a connection,” she said.
Modbury Hospital has 55 palliative care volunteers, and several are involved in the biographies program.
Health team leader Dimi Patrinos said preparing a biography could sometimes be confronting.
“You may be going into a client’s home when they’ve got a lack of energy, they’re not feeling well, when they’ve had a restless night,” she said.
“Preparing them for palliative care patients, where we’re looking at their end of life … engaging and getting that story can be quite confronting — for the person telling the story, but also for the one receiving it.
“It’s an opportunity for them to leave behind some memories for their families, it also gives them a chance to reflect on their lives and where they were and where they’re at.”