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Posts from the ‘Dying Process’ Category

Compassionate transitions in hospice care and in nature

by Valerie Hartman

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

It was the first day of spring, and the sun was shining.  The white snow drops have been in bloom for over a week, weathering two temperature drops and a snowfall.  They remain tall and strong as I walk by and notice them in home gardens this week.  The snow drops are first in the sequence of blooming events that the avid gardener measures via nature’s timeline.  A stroll around the flower beds is like glancing at a wrist watch.  What I love the most about the snow drop is the flower’s constitution to rebirth right through the snow in winter.  They seem so relaxed about it too.  Just one tiny, pure white, fragile drop of closed flower petals, will hold your eye to such beauty against the backdrop of winter.  Stark and peaceful.

Many people are feeling the renewal of energy this week.  Even when physical energy is down, spiritual and emotional energy around this change of season can go up. Read more

Why is my loved one so tired since we started hospice?

By Lorraine Thayer, CRNP

One of the questions I hear frequently as a nurse practitioner working in hospice is: “Why is my loved one sleeping so much since hospice came on board?”

Families question the pain medications or the hospice team’s suggestion that a patient be permitted to nap as they choose. Patients and families frequently focus on the symptom rather than its underlying cause. Many believe that a person’s strength is under his or her control, and feel that the patient is “giving up,” “not fighting,” or “not eating enough.” This is not the case. Read more

To eat or not to eat—That is the question for the patient on hospice

by Terri Durkin, SLP and Maggie Vescovich, SLP

Many families are faced with a difficult decision: what to do when their loved one refuses to eat or drink?

Caregivers struggle with the thought of their loved one going hungry, or not being able to eat the way they used to. We all know that we have to eat and drink to live. All of us have a sense of satisfaction in watching our loved ones eat their favorite foods. Eating is one of life’s pleasures! We associate food with positive, happy times, like holidays and parties, or simply socializing over a family meal after a long day. However, when one is near the end of life, food can become the natural enemy. Read more

Timing is everything: End-of-life care decisions are as much about the psychological need as the physical one

By: Valerie S. Hartman RN, CTRN

Sarah raised three children alone 50 years ago. She had few reliable support systems for child rearing. One child had special needs, escalating Sarah’s protective instincts during many difficult years before she remarried. At age 76 she remained the parent and primary caregiver to her adult special needs child, and she had no plans to use institutional care.

Sarah became seriously ill and signed onto hospice services after exhausting all options for a curative treatment. She signed onto hospice only when she felt herself weaken, when her ability to take care of her daughter started failing. Read more

The Spiritual Bath for hospice patients and families

By Helen Burke

Helen Burke is a Hospice Chaplain with Holy Redeemer Hospice. In her role, Helen provides nondenominational spiritual support to hospice patients and their families. Holy Redeemer Hospice is blessed to have Helen as a member of our team.

An essential component of comprehensive wellness in hospice care is keeping the body clean. The home health aide provides personal care in the most gentle and respectful manner, leaving the patient feeling renewed and refreshed for the day.

The Pastoral Counselor or Chaplain can provide similar renewal for the hospice patient as well as caregivers on the level of Spirit. Read more

Finding meaning in the last day of life…

by Valerie Hartman

This holiday season, as our own hospice team makes visits in our community, we are particularly attentive to families losing loved ones on or near the actual date of a holiday.

Hospice workers carry a humble respect for the feelings that come with holiday loss.

Whether death occurs on a holiday or not, it is often common for the death date, the time of death, or the circumstances around the moment  of death, to signify a meaning that is personal and symbolic to the family. Read more

Saying goodbye to a loved one on hospice

By Terre Mirsch

Throughout our lives we find ourselves saying goodbye under a variety of different circumstances. Euphemisms for these goodbyes—see ya’, ttyl (talk to you later), farewell, or until we meet again—often allow us to avoid the feelings associated with any sense of permanence to the experience.  Some of our goodbyes are fleeting passages communicated politely when we move from one place to another, signaling the end of one conversation as we quickly move into the next.  Some goodbyes occur when circumstances provide us opportunity or a new journey,  like a marriage or a work promotion that requires relocation.  Other times our goodbyes are a positive reflective of life’s natural transitions, as when a child leaves for college or moves away from home. Read more

Knowing what to expect during the dying process

By Terre Mirsch 

Last week we talked about how to be with the dying and the discomfort that we sometimes feel when we shift our focus from one of “doing for” to one of “being with.” Lack of understanding regarding what to expect during the dying process often leads to fear and anxiety—both of which may get in the way of our ability to be fully present with our loved one. While death can occur suddenly, those with progressive illness typically experience the dying process as a series of predictable changes that occur gradually over time, as the body slowly begins to shut down. Early changes may be so discreet that they are often missed by family or even medical professionals. Read more

Being with the dying

By Terre Mirsch

As a hospice and palliative care nurse, I have had the honor of being at the bedside of many during the dying process and at the time of death. It was a privilege to share in this journey, as a role model and mentor for the patients and families that I cared for. For caregivers, having access to a team of professionals who can serve as a guide and provide support during a time of doubt or apprehension is one of the greatest advantages of hospice care.

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The dying process: Creating a personalized plan for your unique journey

By Terre Mirsch

Death, like birth, is a rite of passage that each one of us experiences. It is part of the natural order of life. While some deaths occur suddenly, for most it is a process of gradual decline, providing opportunity for preparation and planning. But while personal birth plans have become somewhat commonplace for those welcoming new life into the world, similar plans for how one would like to experience the dying process are less common.

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