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Dignifying the hand over of personal possessions should the deceased die in hospital, a care home or a hospice

The handing over of personal possessions to loved ones following a death

Photo of Finlay Love
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

Often when a person dies outside their home environment, family or friends are given their loved ones possessions they had with them at their place of death. This could be their glasses, jewellery, a watch, money and clothing. From findings done within the NHS England, personal possessions such as jewellery, money etc. are passed to loved ones in a see through plastic jiffy bag with clothes (sometimes soiled) bundled into black bin liners. This is a very impersonal approach.

It would add so much dignity if the patients family and friends were advised in advance to bring a suitable receptacle for the deceased possessions or for hospitals, care homes and hospices to consult with the family if they want the deceased clothing and provide a simple black cloth bag for the more personal belongings. You wouldn't hand over the deceased ashes after a cremation in a bin liner.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

This for me as End of Life Project Manager working within the NHS England is what I would describe as a quick win with a relatively low cost to implement. From personal experience of receiving my late fathers possessions following a fatal car crash, it struck me at the time how insensitive it was as a signed to receive my fathers watch, glasses (broken following the impact) wallet and cufflinks in a plastic jiffy bag. Something you would normally experience when released from prison.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

As End of Life Project Manger I would welcome any innovative ideas that could be implemented as part of the pathway improvement. It could be something fairly small such as the idea I am proposing to another idea of fast tracking the collection of death certificates for relatives and waiving parking charges occurred within the collection

Tell us about your work experience:

I have been working for various NHS Organisations on ways of improving the patient pathway as an independent consultant. This includes working for various NHS Hospital Trusts in Southern England to more recently NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups responsible for commissioning local health services

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dawn Gross

I am so grateful for your attention to this very important detail all too many people experience in the hospital.  I have given this idea a lot of thought and wonder about the use of volunteers creating cloth/quilted bags from donated clothes. Often, volunteers create knitted blankets and hats for patents in hospitals and in hospice, we have volunteers who use donated clothing to create memory bears.  This could be a more personal and gentle way of remembering while our grief is our own, we are not alone in the experience of grief and many people are just waiting to find ways to be of support and make a difference.

Photo of Morgan Meinel

Finlay Love , thank you so much for sharing this idea, and for your personal experience with your father's death. My sincerest condolences to you. Details such as these really do make such a difference for a person's loved one after they die. I am a hospice and palliative care nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital and many times we are responsible for the deceased patient's belongings - gathering them and placing them in an awful looking plastic bag. I honestly never considered how insensitive or strange such a bag may appear to the loved one...until now! And you're absolutely right.  

Have you considered a large box or bag with a nice floral pattern or neutral tone? Something warm and less unattractive? I wish there was a more pleasant way to deliver my patients belongings to their loved ones. My manager would definitely be on board with this idea. 

Thanks again for your contribution! All the best :) 

Photo of Finlay Love

Hi Ken, this idea as mentioned in my summary is a quick win which is relatively inexpensive to introduce. I am meeting with our main hospital, care home managers and local hospice where I will learn more about current practices of handing over personal possessions and I will try and influence them with this relatively simple initiative. This is really the easy part of the redesign process as I want to commission a rapid End of Life Multi discipline team that will work across the community and act as a first point of contact for patients and family to contact.

Photo of Shane Zhao

Hi Finaly, here's a helpful tip: when posting a response, hit the Reply button directly below the comment that you're addressing. This way, Ken will get a notification when you post a reply to his comment. You may want to repost your reply to Ken by hitting the blue Reply button located on the lower left hand corner of his comment.

Photo of Noni Gachuhi

Its a nice idea. Its amazing to realize how much of a difference these little things make at what is generally a very difficult time. 

Photo of Kate Rushton

I am thinking of something like this:

Photo of Kate Rushton

The items could be returned in biodegradable packaging with seeds. You can then plant the packaging in soil afterwards and from their death comes new life. This could be poppy seeds, lavender etc 

Photo of Ken Rosenfeld

Hi Finlay,  I really love your aubmission and appreciate your idea that aesthetics really do contribute to our sense of personhood and dignity.  Would be interested in brainstorming how such mundane hospital processes might become rituals that honor the deceased person.