Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Review: My Companion Voice by Jean Alleman, Trudy Brown, and Susan Robison

When I was contacted about this little book, I admit, I choked up a bit.  My father passed away nearly a year ago, and for the last week of his life, he was unable to speak much at all.  We went through a lot of guesswork trying to figure out how best to meet his needs and keep him comfortable, and that was frustrating for us and for him.  All we wanted was to know how to serve him, and I've often wondered if he got what he needed in that last week.

This book is one that I consider a valuable tool, and I wish I'd had it a year ago. Its official title is, "Communication for the Cognizant, Nonverbal Patient," and it's geared toward patients who have lost their ability to speak, but still know what's going on around them.  Each page has pictures that illustrate how the patient is feeling, along with a phrase next to it.  The patient can point to the picture that indicates how they are feeling, or what they need.  Some examples are:

I would like to brush my teeth.

Please turn my TV off.

I feel cold.

I need the bathroom.

Each section is broken down into specifics - comfort, feelings, food, drink, and visits.  The patient has the opportunity to ask his visitors how they are doing, to ask for current news, to indicate that he's in pain, to ask for something specific to drink, all by pointing to the picture that illustrates that item.  The pictures are large enough to be clearly visible, but the book itself is small and won't take up a ton of room or get cumbersome.

As a person begins that final walk on their life's journey, part of that shutting-down process is a loss of verbal skills.  I saw it with my father, and my mom, who is a hospice volunteer, has noticed it time and again.  I highly recommend this book if you have a loved one in this situation.  They will feel more empowered to communicate, and you will know you've done what they most need.

I received a copy of this book for review, but I was more than happy to share my honest feelings about it.


Cheri J. Crane said...

Tristi, what a heartfelt, tender review. This little book was created out of the same sense of frustration and grief that you experienced. I wish it would've been available for your family last year. And I'm so sorry to hear of your father's passing.

Thank you again, for helping us with this project.



Toyin O. said...

Great review, sounds like a good book, thanks for sharing.

Caren with a "C" said...

That is such a hard situation. Back in 1990 my little sister was paralyzed from neck down and had a breathing tube. We had to use eye blinks to communicate yes and no. She passed away a few months later. A book with help on how to communicate better with her may have been good to lift some frustration.

My Companion Voice said...

Tristi Pinkston, Thank you for your great review. You have truly caught our vision for the book and why it was created. We are sorry about your father. We, like you, have done the seconded guessing about our mother. Did we do enough to make her last days comfortable. She didn’t have the book either. We wish she could have. Our motto has always been “My all who have no voice be given this one”. Then those people won’t have to go through what our mom did and husband/brother-in-law before he got the book. Thank you for realizing the help this book can be to our loved ones. Thank You for your help!! [Jean Alleman, Trudy Brown and Susan Robison]

S.B.Niccum said...

Thank you Tristi for reviewing that book. I'll have to check it out, my father is/has been in a nursing home for a rare disorder that impairs his speech, walking and other functions.
PS: I'm a homeschooler too! It's nice to meet you!

Melissa Lemon said...

That is ingenius. Thanks for the review.

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