Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Discussion We All Need to Have

At Hope Hospice, we ask our patients and family members to share their wishes regarding the time they are in our care and beyond. Stating one’s desires about burial, cremation, funerals and other concerns is important to the patient. It also gives the family guidance on procedures following death.

This is not always an easy conversation to have. Patients and/or family members may want to delay discussion of these issues until later. But as a patient progresses in the death process, he or she may lose the ability to clearly communicate. His or her ability to make decisions may be limited as time goes on.

Making these choices early on, shortly after being admitted to hospice care, is the preferable way. Considering options and even prearranging certain details gives the patient comfort.

Sometimes family members are surprised by a patient’s wishes. Dad may want to be cremated and have his ashes spread in the ocean. Mom may want to donate her remains to medical science. A wife or husband may want to be buried in her or his hometown, not in the cemetery lot purchased nearby. The patient may wish to have a certain clergyman (or clergywoman) or a particular family member share remarks at a funeral.

While this important discussion is a vital part of hospice care, persons not yet facing death should speak about these issues. This is especially true when family members are in another city and in-person visits occur just a few times each year. Because an event such as a fall or a heart attack can lead to a rapid demise, it’s good to have an idea about your mom or dad’s wishes.

The conversation does not have to be grim and does not necessarily infer that you expect your parent, sibling or other loved one to die soon. You may learn that plans have already been made. You may also find that, because you have this conversation when your loved one is still in good health, it will be easier to talk about these issues when death is anticipated.

How about you? Do you have special wishes? Have you made your wishes known to your husband, your wife or your kids? Have the conversation and share your desires.

Dealing with Grief During the Holiday Season

With Thanksgiving here and Christmas just weeks away, the season can bring sadness for those who have lost a loved one during the past year. When a spouse, parent or close friend dies, observances of holidays and celebrations without that person around can be difficult.

Hope Hospice chaplain John Wilson urges those who have lost a loved one to enjoy the company of others. “Don’t deprive your friends and family the joy of your presence.”

Friends and family should remember the departed at holiday time and “tell that person’s story. It’s okay to remember and talk about him or her,” says Wilson. “It gives everyone concerned permission to acknowledge the grief and loss.”

Wilson urges survivors to “work to establish new traditions. If the family gathered at grandma’s house every year and now she’s gone, maybe consider getting together at another family member’s house instead.”

Sometimes groups of couples will not invite a surviving spouse to holiday celebrations, presuming that he or she might feel out of place as a widow/widower. Wilson says, “Don’t leave her or him off your guest list due to the loss. Yes, the person might be uncomfortable, but let him or her make that decision.” An invitation to visit with old friends may go a long way toward helping a surviving spouse cope with holiday season sadness, reminds Wilson.

In his role as Hope Hospice chaplain, Wilson has found that, for some, the prospect of a loved one’s yet-to-come passing may be as hard to face as the grief that follows death. For those who may be thinking such thoughts as “this will probably be dad’s last Christmas,” Wilson urges “enjoy these moments and engage that person as much as possible.”

Wilson suggests that surviving spouses make an meaningful effort to be around other people at holiday time. Attending a holiday church service or dining at a holiday buffet can ease the feeling of solitude. Wilson suggests survivors reach out to friends and family by phone or by online social networks such as Facebook.

John Wilson says the best way to deal with holiday sadness is to “do what’s comfortable for you. And what’s comfortable depends on where you are in the grief process.”

If you need grief counseling this holiday season or seek information about hospice care, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.

Thank You, American Veterans!

At Hope Hospice, we value all our patients and their families. But, as we observe Veterans Day, 2012, we offer a special tribute to our past and present patients who have served in our nation’s Armed Forces.

These men and women have had extraordinary experiences in their lives. Many have faced combat. Many have spent years away from their hometowns. All have given significant portions of their lives to the work of keeping America safe. This may be the most important thing our Veterans have given us: their time.

Most who enter military service do so when they are young. Whether a person stays in for two years or twenty years, his or her term in uniform comes during the prime time of one’s life. Whether those years are spent in the Mideast desert, on a Navy carrier or in a stateside office or supply station, those are years that cannot be reclaimed. Those are years that our veterans have given to you and me.

For those veterans who are Hope Hospice patients, we offer an ear to listen to stories they may want to tell. We know that many who have seen the horrors of war may have avoided sharing those experiences with family members and friends upon their return home. As their days grow short, some vets decide they do want to talk about previously unspoken military memories. We work with caregivers and other loved ones to make sure that these stories are heard and, in some cases, recorded to keep them for future generations of the patient’s family.

If you know any veterans, young or old, take time to listen to their stories. You may be amazed by their recollections of people, places and events that they experienced during their military service. Some vets may be more forthcoming than others; that’s to be expected. But when a veteran in your family, neighborhood or workplace has something to say about his or her time in the military, take time to really listen. After all, this person has given a huge amount of time for you. You should be happy to give back a small amount of your time.

November is Hospice and Palliative Care Month

The theme for this year’s National Hospice and Palliative Care Month (which has just begun) is “Comfort. Love. Respect.” These three words are appropriate because they echo the philosophy of Hope Hospice.

“Comfort. Love. Respect.” Whether you view those three words as nouns or as verbs, they each reflect how we view our mission of patient care. We deliver comfort, love and respect to each Hope Hospice patient. We comfort our patients. We love our patients. And we respect our patients.

It’s important for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) to designate November each year to increase awareness of hospice and the work being done around the US by hospice organizations. At Hope Hospice, we work with the same level of dedication 24/7/365, but we appreciate having a special month to recognize our efforts and tell the community what we do.

Among the key points being made this month by NHPCO are these:

  1. “Hospice is not brink-of-death care intended for the last days of life only.” That quote is from Dr. Donald Schumacher, president of NHPCO.
  2. Anyone can contact hospice. Call your local program to learn if hospice is right for you or your loved one.
  3. Hospice is fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private health plans and HMOs.

As hospice education continues and more families use the services of hospice, awareness of hospice is increasing. That’s good news. This fact may be even better news for families considering hospice: Research by NHPCO has found that 94 percent of families who had a loved one cared for by hospice rated the care as “very good” to “excellent.” We at Hope Hospice are proud to be part of a care group that is so highly rated.

“Comfort. Love. Respect.” Those are words we live by every day. During November, which is Hospice and Palliative Care Month, we share those words with our patients and families, our staff, our friends throughout the medical community and the general public.