Even though portable electronic devices are more synonymous with younger Veterans, the endless capabilities of unlocking the past through these devices can reach out to VA's older Veterans, too. Recreation therapists have a valuable tool that can bridge the two generations together -- the electronic tablet -- which, in just a short time, has influenced the culture of VA Palo Alto Health Care System's Hospice Unit.
Recreation therapists have many responsibilities and one of them is to help Veterans on the Hospice Unit use their last days wisely and happily, especially for those Veterans who don't have families visiting. The electronic tablet can refresh memories of significant people/places that at one time had a lasting impact on a Veteran's life, and can once again become meaningful. Feelings of nostalgia surface, and these memories become alive and vivid to our Veterans, making their days less monotonous.
The electronic tablet is versatile, portable, and packed with multiple applications for the recreation therapist to utilize when engaging in bedside visits with the residents. For example, Navy Veteran Jack Mattle, a patient who is a long-time San Francisco Giants fan, was able to hear the latest updates on the team and most recent posts about the players. The 92-year-old World War II Veteran also mentioned his experience during the Battle of Saipan. The recreation therapist simply types "Battle of Saipan" on the onscreen keyboard and begins reading the historical accounts of that battle to the Veteran. After listening and reminiscing, the resident expressed how he is simply amazed at the technology that is now so accessible and limitless. He further states, "I would love to have one of them but if only I could see better!" Again, thanks to the varied functions of an electronic tablet, the colorful and clear images can be enlarged, and the Veteran was able to see it.
Another story involves completing a Google search of a diner owned by another Veteran's brother-in-law. When the recreation therapist showed him the picture of the building, the Veteran exclaimed, "That's it! That's Val's Diner! How about that?!" The image hugely impacted him, so much so that the next day he had an address and described the place as a church. The church was located in San Francisco by using Google maps. After looking at the picture of the church, the resident quietly shared that while his family lived in Oakland, his father would take him to San Francisco weekly to attend this church to listen to the pastor. By the way he spoke, it was obvious the memories meant a great deal to him.
One last story involves a Veteran who was also a former boxer. His favorite boxer and role model was Jack Dempsey. He didn't say a lot when Dempsey's photo appeared on the tablet, but his bright blue eyes twinkled when he saw the familiar face. As the tablet was held up to his face, the resident watched an old 6-minute boxing clip of Jack Dempsey on YouTube. Slowly the resident drifted back to sleep, only this time there was a noticeable smile on his face as he slept.