Archive for category Death and Dying issues
Currently, I am working as a hospice volunteer coordinator. Recently, I put together a list of items, or stories a parent or grandparent might want to write down and pass on. It was the passing of my grandmother, that made me think of such a list. Nene died this winter; she was 98. She hadn’t been able to communicate much for years, and the opportunity to ask these type of questions, sadly is gone.
When I think about what is the most valuable item a person could leave for another person, I think it might be an “All About Me” journal. This journal could be passed on for generations to come. If you have an elderly person in your life, or someone who is on hospice, this is a terrific thing to do.
Purchase a good quality journal (acid free paper), have the person write down the answers in their own writing (printing-not cursive), or have another individual write down the answers. If there are multiple children, find a way to make a copy of it. Finally, attach personal photos in the journal. Consider the best time to share it. An individual who completes it him or herself, may want to share it with the “receiver”, or wrap it up and place it aside for a special gift for some time in the future.
Below is my list (include any additional items that come to mind)
This was a very touching story of a young man named Chris (aged 31), who took in an elderly neighbor named Norma who was dying from Leukemia. He credited her with “changing his life for the better and helping to teach him to be a kinder, gentler and more compassionate person”. After she died, he posted her photo on Facebook and he wrote this message:
“To love another is not about living struggle free or never experiencing hurt or loss, but to fully and deeply open our hearts to one another without fear. Each of us is lovable even with all of our differences. Love has no boundaries”.
Do you work with seniors who have end-stage (or advanced) Alzheimer’s? Have you found it challenging to connect to them in a meaningful way? It can be difficult without knowing something about what they used to enjoy. Below is a story of Eugenia, a senior who was 100 years old and was told that she didn’t need a volunteer. Not only did she have an advanced case of Alzheimer’s, she was partially blind and had hearing difficulties.
A volunteer coordinator decided to place a volunteer with Eugenia every day of the week. Each day volunteers read to her. Volunteers also oriented Eugenia to her surroundings and the time. Week after week, Eugenia continued to be unaware of the companionship she was receiving. But one day, a young volunteer sang his university’s fight song. Then it happened- Eugenia’s feet began to tap. She bobbed her head and lifted her eyes. With all eyes on Eugenia, she looked up and spread her lips and smiled.
It took time and patience. It took finding what Eugenia needed to connect to the outside world. Her smile meant so much to those volunteers- they had finally made a connection. What she needed was music!
According to this 2015 article from New York Times, federal statistics showed that “nearly half of white Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in hospice before death, compared with only a third of black patients”. The article said that black Americans are far more likely than white Americans to choose life-sustaining interventions.
Black Americans tended to have more mistrust for the medical community and a lack of education as to the benefits of hospice care. In this regard, it is imperative for hospice workers to reach out to this community through education (Hospice 101) and the sharing of how the program has positively impacted the lives of African-Americans in particular.
Modern technology has produced something very special- a new companion for the elderly who have Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. It is a Robotic Pet and it acts similar to a live pet, but it never runs away, has to be fed, or must make an expensive trip to the vet! These pets give these seniors a true companion and would be terrific for any activity program. The video is short, but very sweet and shows how these pets can make a real difference to your loved one. You can find these at Walmart.com.
Recently I came across a web-site for Biblical based bereavement support. The web-site allowed me to type in my zip code and showed a support group in my area, only 15 minutes away. This is a program for individuals who have lost a loved one (ie, not a pet). Here is how this program works:
- All participants go through curriculum based support material.
- It lasts for 13 weeks.
- When the 13 week program is over, many participants find that they have made close friends and even choose to attend another program.
- There is a minimal cost for materials.
- You can join any time, but are encouraged to start at the beginning of the session, in order to gain the most benefit.
- The views in this particular program are of the Christ centered community, but people of all faiths have joined and share that they have learned helpful information and tips.
- Meetings are held at churches or locations such as the public library.
Many people have advance directives, but they often express general, or vague ideas of how they would like to be cared for when they are unable to speak for themselves, or are in a clear state, or in the process of dying. One advance directive that is important to consider having, once you are older is the Do-Not-Resuscitate order. I was able to locate the DNR order for my state- South Carolina on the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website.
Thinking about end of life options is incredibly daunting. You have to try to consider different circumstances you may or may not be in; far down the road. Knowing which documents to complete, whether or not you need a lawyer, and who to give copies to, all add to the complexity of the decision making process. Read the rest of this entry »
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