The Activity Department - resources for the activity director

BIBLIOTHERAPY IN NURSING CARE FACILITIES

2/13/2006

BIBLIOTHERAPY IN NURSING CARE FACILITIES
Charles A. Sourby, MS Ed. CTRS/HTR
NYSTRA

Sixty percent of recreation therapists in the United States practice in nursing care facilities or hospitals. This means that 14,400 recreation therapists provide hundreds of thousands of service units to people with healthcare issues. Therapists have opportunities to collect stories if they engage individuals in activities that foster biographical information. Over the years I collected some interesting tidbits of information through bibliotherapy.

Bibiotherapy sessions conducted with individuals or groups, lead to numerous therapeutic moments. Individual sessions designed to meet specific needs, unblock emotions and relieve emotional pressures. Additionally, self awareness, an enhanced self concept and improved personal and social judgment are the main outcomes. These outcomes result in improved behaviors, an ability to handle and understand important life issues, increased empathy, tolerance, respect and acceptance of others.

The concept of bibliotherapy is not a new one. Aristotle believed that literature had healing effects and the ancient Romans also recognized that there was some relationship between medicine and reading. People who enjoy reading often make use of their imagination and sense of humor. Residents, participating in bibliotherapy session often express personal stories and memories.

One resident, Elsa shares some of her memories here for your edification. Bibliotherapy is therapeutic and life affirming. One-on-one bibliotherapy sessions provide a wealth of subjective information and a way to link the present to the past while helping maintain a sense of self.

Elsa
I was born in Freedman’s Hospital August 25th, 1920. I’m proud of it. I think I had a nice childhood. It might have been unusual. We were of medium means but, I thought I was rich because I had everything, and it was the other people who did not.

I learned a lot from the other people (like how to kill roaches) because we didn’t have any roaches but, my best friend did. And I thought it was marvelous. I grew-up in Washington and remained there for 30 some odd years until I came to New York City.

My mother liked to sew, but she couldn’t sew. And she used to make these little funny dresses for me (that I hated) but, because she made it, I had to wear it. My mother told me I was a sweet child. Aunt Fanny told me I was the “queen “of 9th Street and my brother was the “king” of”9th Street.


Aunt Fanny and the Opening of the Trunk
I would like to tell you about Aunt Fanny. Aunt Fanny is my mother’s sister and she worked here in New York City. The first time I had ever heard of this great place called New York was because she lived there. And she worked for a very wealthy family. And every summer they would go to Europe. And they would give her choice of joining them, or come home. So, she always elected to come home to see her mother. And she always brought this great big trunk with her.
My Aunt Fanny was an old-fashioned lady. And she would bring out these dresses - and that was how I learned good quality. These were dresses with French seams. It had a little bias on the shoulder to hold up the strap- the bra strap or the slip strap. Such quality, that I had never seen before or seen since. And on one occasion: when Aunt Fanny opened the trunk she brought out high-top shoes. I told you about the high-top shoes. I never wore high-top shoes but, she wore high-top shoes and long dresses. It was Aunt Fanny, if you recall, who told me before, that I was the queen of 9th Street.

Uncle Joe
Uncle Joe was Aunt Fanny’s brother, my mother’s brother also. And Uncle Joe was a good-looking Brown-skinned man. He wore a derby and he wore ah… I don’t know kind of coat it was but, it was just right, whatever it was. And he wore spats. And he carried a cane. And he put on a performance... When Uncle Joe came we’d know he would come with the cane, and we’d be so happy to see him. I loved him because he loved everybody. And he certainly loved me. And I think that’s all I can say about Uncle Joe. He always had a joke…always had a joke and always had us laughing. And he would laugh at Aunt Fanny and her long dresses, and her high top shoes. And by the way Aunt Fanny, in my opinion, was just as old as my grandmother because she wore the long dress and the high top shoes also. So I thought they were sisters…

In conclusion, bibliotherapy is a valuable modality to try with residents. It appears to reaffirm their life in a way that leads to healing, reflection and sense of self.

Article reprinted with permission of the author. All rights reserved.