The discipline of mindfulness in hospice caregiving
By Ron King
Mindfulness is the practice of giving full attention to the present moment, becoming aware of all circumstances and resources in any given time and place. To be mindful does not mean analyzing, interpreting, evaluating or planning. It is simply pausing to breathe, being at rest, stopping to look and listen to what is around you.
It’s difficult to be mindful of all the current moment presents when it is filled with pain, tiredness and loss. Caregiving 24/7 through the hospice journey is consumed with administering medication, providing personal care, meeting with medical and support staff, and squeezing in all the necessary work like housekeeping, paying bills and making final arrangements. A sense of urgency and vigilance is needed for the patient to be safe and needs to be met.
To focus on activities of caregiving can distract us from the calm peaceful attitude needed for true mindfulness. Even when we are able to rest from caregiving responsibilities, our minds may be filled with the worry, sadness and fear of sickness and death. Anxiety often results rather than the peaceful renewal and assurance that mindfulness is intended to bring.
When we are able to quiet our soul and meditate upon the spiritual, personal and relationship resources around us, these things become more real and available to empower us in giving care to those we love. We may notice and draw strength from the smiles of children in our midst, photos and memories we hold dear, music that fills the room, the smell of pumpkin pie a neighbor left on the table, hope of a new day, beauty of a sunset or fresh cut flowers.
True mindfulness creates energy and removes emotional or intellectual roadblocks to healthy living. Absorbing what is good around us enables us to tackle a new day with renewed compassion and ability to give again. Mindfulness provides space for a serenity and remedy for compassion fatigue. When a family can share moments of meditation together, doors open for deeper communication. Words that are difficult to speak at the end of life can best be said when our minds are focused on what matters most.
The discipline of mindfulness is a way of reminding ourselves of realities and blessings that go beyond what we can see, hear, and touch. Whatever is good, beautiful, loving, true, filled with grace and hope: think on these things.