The Foundation is pleased to report that, thanks to the outstanding advocacy of our WA Ambassador, Sharon Knapp, and the generous financial support of Western Plant Hire, patients in the Intensive Care Unit of
Rockingham General Hospital in WA will now have access to Foundation ICU Patient Diaries to aid them in their psychological recovery.
It is recognized that ICU survivors face common psychological problems during their recovery, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a condition triggered by the experience of a traumatic event which must be severe enough to cause powerful subjective responses such as intense fear, helplessness and horror. It is characterised by a range of symptoms such as re-experiencing the event (flashbacks), avoidance of situations that remind one of the event, a numbed reaction and symptoms of increased arousal.
The fragmentary nature of memories for the time in critical care and the high proportion of delusional memories, such as nightmares and hallucinations, that are recalled afterwards make it difficult for patients to make sense of what has happened to them and has been shown to be one of the precipitants of PTSD among ICU survivors. These memories are frequently described by patients as very vivid, realistic and frightening and may even involve patients thinking that nurses or doctors tried to kill them.
An ICU diary, written by healthcare staff and family in everyday language with photographs as a daily record of the patient’s ICU stay, has been shown in many instances to help ICU survivors fill in the significant gaps they have in their memories and put any delusional memories into context and so aid psychological recovery. Families are generally advised to use their discretion in sharing ICU diaries with the recovering patient. They are wonderfully helpful for many but are not for everyone.
The workload for healthcare staff of writing in a diary is minimal at only a few minutes per day, except for starting the diary, which takes longer as an introduction is needed to explain why the patient has been admitted to the ICU.