Archive for the ‘Hospice’ Category

“Deathiversaries” And Post-Death Birthdays

Posted on July 16th, 2015 by karen
death anniversaries

Cynthia’s dad in 2010.

We are pleased to share this blog with you. It first appeared on Cynthia’s WordPress site in April 2015.


by Cynthia Greb

What do you call a birthday when that person is no longer on this earth? I guess it’s still the anniversary of his birth, although we are no longer counting the years he has lived.

Dad’s birthday is April 30th. I wrote the first draft of this piece back in February on the first anniversary of his death. But then I set it aside to read it and revise it later. And “later” turned into another month. And now I’m dusting it off one more time.

It’s not easy to remember death.

There are so many wonderful, wonderful things to remember about Dad: his teasing and horsing around; his affection for his wife, kids, and especially his grandchildren; all his years of hard work supporting his family and never complaining; his love of naps; the way he always had time for his family; his dedication to the churches he attended and served; all the little vacations we took together; his love of food; his gregarious personality; his gratitude; his love of nature. I could go on and on. But sadly, I seem to be stuck in an endless review of his last few months.

If he had started to drastically decline and then simply continued that decline, I think I could have accepted that. After all, death comes to each one of us, and after several years suffering the indignities of Alzheimer’s, I’m sure, at some level, he was more than ready to let go of this life. As a matter of fact, for several months, while he was still living in his home, he would repeatedly tell us, “I’m ready to go home. Please take me home. Please take me home.”

We had thought he was confused and couldn’t remember that this was his own home. We tried in vain to convince him that this was the home he’d built with his own two hands when the rancher had become too small for his burgeoning family. We pointed to all the pictures of the family on the mantle. We said, “See? There we all are! This is your home.” But it made no difference. He was caught in a sad loop, not realizing he was in his own home.

At least that’s what we thought at the time.

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Communicating Without Words: The Blessing Of Touch

Posted on February 4th, 2015 by karen

Expression through touch

by Teresa Stecker

A friend of mine visited her childhood pastor, who suffers from progressive Parkinson’s disease. My friend shared how, as a child, she would draw pictures for the pastor and he would always hang them in his office. He always meant a lot to her and she felt a very special bond with him.

Now he’s in a nursing home, crumpled in a wheelchair, unable to even open his eyes due to his frailty. Recently she brought him a picture she had drawn as a child that she found in an old box in her basement. While describing every detail to him, she placed her hand between his. He didn’t verbally respond or open his eyes, but a tear came down his cheek.

Afterward, the pastor’s wife mentioned that people don’t visit him much anymore, because he doesn’t respond. But seeing that teardrop was an affirmation that he is still in there.

Touch is one of the basic needs of life. The craving for touch to communicate affection, comfort and reassurance is present in all of us from the day we are born. As we age, other senses may change and even fade away, but touch remains. And it has the power to reach through the fog, confusion and fear of dementia. A reassuring touch grounds those who are spatially disoriented. It brings people back to their bodies and increases their awareness of present time and space.

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Doula Training For The End Of Life

Posted on July 16th, 2014 by karen

Doula Training For The End Of Life

by Lisa M. Wolfson

As a cancer survivor and someone who is drawn to helping others in need, I have always explored ways to help people improve their health with a holistic approach. In recent years I have also been drawn to explore the full-life process, including the process of dying, and have felt a desire to help people and their families when faced with the realization that they were entering the final stage of life. So I researched and did training as an end-of-life doula and I’m immensely grateful that I did. I expected to learn about the dying process but what I really learned in this training was how to live.

An end-of-life doula is someone who provides informational, physical and spiritual support to a person who is dying and to their family as well. The doula honors the sacred part of the dying process while addressing it as a normal part of the human life cycle, with the goal being to achieve a “good death,” meaning a death with acceptance, without struggle, with grace and peace. The role of the doula can include planning for the final phase of an illness, maintaining a continuous presence when the person is actively dying and working through, or reprocessing, the experience with caregivers and family.

A doula will explain the dying process to the person and the family members, and help develop a plan for the final days that honors the wishes of the person who is dying. These wishes may include the setting for the vigil and who they want present during their final hours. The vigil itself may be just a day or two, or run longer. The doula will work with the near-departed in advance of the vigil stage to develop a relationship and have time to honor their wishes. For instance, some people may want to be at home with only their immediate family members present, with candles and some specific music playing or perhaps something being read to them. Another person may request to be alone with their spouse and children when the end nears. The doula will orchestrate these wishes as much as humanly possible. The doula may do legacy writing with the person as well, helping to put certain sentiments into words to be shared with the family and friends after they’re gone, or use guided visualization during the vigil stage to relax and comfort the person. Or the doula can simply act as companion when needed, talking or reading to the person as desired. They may also use aromatherapy or therapeutic touch to comfort the person and help them let go when the time comes.

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The Heart Of Hospice: Why It Works

Posted on February 26th, 2014 by karen

Rainbow with Seagull

For the last several weeks, we have been featuring some of our favorite blogs from years past. This entry was first published by In Care of Dad on October 24, 2011.


by Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC

I think I know why many families are afraid to engage the hospice alternative. It’s partly because they don’t really know what hospice offers, and they’re worried that some useful treatment may be discontinued or bypassed altogether.

And some families believe that involving hospice is tantamount to giving up and inviting the event they are most afraid of: the loss of a loved one.

I also think I know why doctors are reluctant to recommend hospice for patients facing potential end-of-life situations because it goes against their years of training to heal and to cure. Maybe it feels like a personal defeat for them — they are fix-it people with the best of intentions. Doctors can request a hospice evaluation for their patients when it seems appropriate, but it’s clearly hard for them to let go of the procedures they’ve been taught and used repeatedly to great and humane success.

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Life With Pop: The D Word

Posted on September 5th, 2013 by karen

Life with Pop

An excerpt from the book, Life With Pop: Lessons on Caring for an Aging Parent, by Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D., with Michael Spring.


September 29, 2005

I’m at the hospital by nine. My heart is pounding — and breaking.

Dad lies stiffly in bed, unable to lift his head, so I draw my face up close to his and take his hand. We spend a few minutes chitchatting, warming up. He may not be alert for long, so you’d better get into it now.

“Dad,” I say gingerly, “we need to have a serious talk about what’s happening to you.”

He seems to be listening with every nerve in his body. I speak as slowly and gently as I know how, for his sake, and mine. “The reason you got pneumonia is because when you swallow, the food drips into your lungs.”

I look into his eyes to see if he’s registering what I’m saying. He’s with me every step of the way.

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Reflections On A Final Moment Of Joy

Posted on July 30th, 2013 by karen

The Cab Driver

by Kent Nerburn

There was a time in my life twenty years ago when I was driving a cab for a living. It was a cowboy’s life, a gambler’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss, constant movement, and the thrill of a dice roll every time a new passenger got into the cab.

What I didn’t count on when I took the job was that it was also a ministry. Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a rolling confessional. Passengers would climb in, sit behind me in total anonymity, and tell me of their lives.

We were like strangers on a train, the passengers and I, hurtling through the night, revealing intimacies we would never have dreamed of sharing during the brighter light of day.

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Wrenching Choices At The End Of Life

Posted on June 18th, 2013 by karen

"Give me a good glass of wine, play me some Mozart..."

by Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC

If I’ve told my children once, I’ve told them a thousand times. “When I’m near the end of my life, give me a good glass of wine, play me some Mozart, and LEAVE ME ALONE!”

I’m being only partly facetious. The wine and the Mozart are easy. Leaving me alone without trying to fix me is the wrenching part. Believe me, I know. I muddled through this process with three family members whom I loved deeply, and I’ve watched families of my frail, elderly clients go through the same experience.

Even when advance directives and living wills are as specific as they can be regarding Do Not Resuscitate orders, feeding tubes and ventilators, families still struggle with the decisions. There are conflicting views within the family, as well as conflicting medical advice, not to mention the uncertainty and fear in their own hearts and minds.

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Evaluating The Hospice Option

Posted on January 9th, 2012 by kim

by Kim Keller

“I wished I’d known about hospice sooner.”

That’s what we often hear people say after they’ve been through the hospice experience.  We hear it all the time.

And we said the same thing in 2006.  Our dad spent only his last couple days in hospice, but we’re certain, in retrospect, that he would have been much more comfortable and at ease had we made the decision to go there sooner.

The fact is, we didn’t really know the truth about hospice — it was not brought up by anyone in the hospital, and we were scared off by the misinformed opinions we held at the time.

It’s now a mission of ours to let other people know about hospice as a viable option, about its philosophy of living out the end of one’s life with quality and dignity.  It’s our sincere hope that we’ll begin to hear people say, I’m so glad we got involved with hospice when we did.

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How To Talk To Your Parent About Hospice

Posted on July 27th, 2011 by kim

photo of a winter sunset

by Kim Keller

Before our dad went into hospice, we met with a hospice nurse and asked for guidance. Our question: Should we tell Dad that he was going into hospice care? To us, hospice meant death, so how could we tell him such a thing without his giving up hope?

The nurse began by reassuring us that the role of hospice was not to invite death or discourage wellness, but simply to provide a peaceful environment, without pain, in which nature could take its course. She told us that some people actually got better with hospice care, and they were able to go home. She encouraged us to be straightforward with our dad, but she acknowledged that some families opted not to tell their loved ones.

Honestly, we probably would’ve opted to not tell him, if we thought we could have gotten away with it. The problem was, the hospice nurses and aides all wore name tags with the word HOSPICE written prominently across the top of the tag. Fooling Dad was impossible. And so we told him, carefully. We told him that he didn’t need to be in a hospital anymore, but that he wasn’t well enough to go home. We were going to move him to a place “run by hospice” and that he could receive his treatments there. But, as delicate as we tried to be, he understood exactly what we meant.

He opened his eyes and grabbed on to us and said with unmistakable clarity, “I’m sorry. I tried. I love you.”

He closed his eyes again, and that was the very last time he spoke with any of us. He seemed almost relieved. Maybe he was just waiting for us to be emotionally ready before he himself could say goodbye. He arrived at hospice the next day and, as the nurse later told us, he said to her: “I’m ready.”

He died about 48 hours later.

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Hospice – Our Hard Decision

Posted on June 8th, 2011 by kim

By Kim Keller

One of the hardest decisions we had to make as a family was about our dad’s receiving hospice care.  To complicate matters, he was too sick to participate in the conversation.  To us, making a move to hospice care felt like giving up.  Letting him go.  And we wanted to keep him for as long as we could.

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