November is National Hospice Month! During this time we celebrate the tireless work of the hospice professionals who assist patients and their families during the weeks and months that they journey with a serious or terminal illness.
However, in addition to the service of providing pain and symptom management, assisting with personal care, providing volunteer, counseling and social work services, there may be many other services that your local hospice program may be able to offer to patients, families and caregivers alike.
Please keep in mind that each hospice agency provides unique services to the community. Before you decide, it is important to reach out and ask which agency offers services that best meet your needs.
Some community support programs that are offered by hospice agencies that are routinely available include:
Bereavement Support --Dealing with the death of a loved one can be a difficult and often lonely endeavor. All hospice agencies offer bereavement services to families of patients that have died. In addition, many hospices offer community support programming to help those who have suffered a loss. Some support programs are in groups, but often individualized help is available. Most times the bereavement services for the community are without charge.
Pet Bereavement Support--The death of a pet can often be quite traumatizing, especially when the pet has been a long standing member of the family. Hospice agencies are offering bereavement counseling for those who suffered the loss of a pet. Call and reach out if you have suffered a loss and require support.
Dementia Support Groups-- Nancy Reagan always referred to the diagnosis of President Reagan as the ‘long goodbye’. Dealing with a loved one suffering with dementia is difficult---but you do not have to deal with this alone. Many hospices have dementia support groups that educate, support and guide.
Supporting Children through a Loss--Often it is difficult for children to understand or process the death of a parent, sibling, and grandparent or loved one. There are specialized programs for children to understand and live with the loss----developing a new normal. These programs are usually done in a series of 5 sessions so that proper education and guidance can be accomplished.
Community Education Series-- Not only are your local hospices taking the lead to advance end of life care, but many are helping to educate the professional and lay community alike. Ask about monthly seminars, educational programs and other topics of interest to you and your family/co-workers.
Memorial Services-- Hospice agencies routinely celebrate the lives of those patients who have died within the last 6 months or a year. Surrounding yourself with others who have suffered a loss can often be healing and certainly supportive. Call and ask your local hospice about planned memorial services that honor lives well lived through prayer and testimonials.
Volunteer opportunities--There can be no better way to give back to your community than through volunteering opportunities. Hospice offers a wide array of ways to volunteer ranging from direct patient contact to more administrative tasks. Whatever the job, the act of volunteering is what makes hospice care so special.
Mentoring Programs-- As hospice programs are traditionally interdisciplinary in approach; students working with hospice programs are provided an optimal environment to learn not only hospice care, but also the ever important concept of team. Many hospice agencies work with students regularly from nursing schools, universities and our local medical college.
Transitions Program-- Often patients are referred for hospice services, but do not meet eligibility requirements for this level of care. However, many hospice agencies offer a transitions program, which is a volunteer supported program to monitor the frail elderly in the community and reporting changes back to the physician for advice and guidance. These programs are free of charge, volunteer supported and a valuable asset for the independent senior who may need that extra set of eyes and ears of a skilled volunteer.
So, in honor of National Hospice Month, we say, thank you to all the hospice professionals, volunteers and families who work so diligently to care for those in our community with a serious or terminal illness. But remember too, that your local hospice agency can be a wonderful resource for education, mentoring, dementia support and grief counseling. Ask questions, attend a seminar, inquire about memorial services or look for support when caring for a loved one with dementia. Help, support, guidance and education are available----just make the call to your local hospice agency.
To find out which hospices serve your community, call NHPCO’s HelpLine at 1-800-658-8898 or visit www.caringinfo.org/
Medical Contributor: Ralph DeMario, MD, CMO, Hospice of the Sacred Heart
Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – Every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune. This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College