Hospice: Not a place, but
November 24, 2006
How to Help a Grieving
Friend During the Holidays
Ten Practical Ways
that You Can Offer Help and Support
From the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
And KGH Volunteer Hospice
The holidays, especially the
first ones after a loved one's death, can be especially difficult
for a person who is grieving. Friends and family members may
be unsure how to act or what to say to support their grieving
loved one during the holidays.
In general, the best way to help those who are grieving during
the holidays is to let them know you care. They need to be remembered,
and they need to know their loved ones are remembered, too. Local
hospice grief counselors emphasize that friends and family members
should never be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, because
making an effort and showing concern will be appreciated.
Here are some tips that grieving people have shared:
1. Be supportive of the way your friend chooses to celebrate
the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may
choose to change their rituals.
2. Offer to help with tangible tasks such as baking, cleaning,
or decorating. Seemingly simple tasks can be overwhelming while
dealing with grief.
3. Invite the person to attend a religious service with you and
4. Offer to help with holiday shopping or share your favorite
catalogs or on-line shopping sites.
5. Invite your friend to your home for the holidays.
6. Inquire if your friend is interested in volunteering with
you during the holiday season. Doing something for someone else,
such as helping at a soup kitchen or working with children, may
help him or her feel better about the holidays.
7. Make a donation in memory of your friend's loved one, as a
reminder that his or her special person is not forgotten.
8. Remember to avoid telling your friend that he or she should
be "over it;" grief is an individual process and there
are no right or wrong ways to grieve.
9. If your friend wants to talk about the deceased loved one
or feelings associated with the loss, LISTEN. Don't worry about
being conversational. just listen.
10. Remind the person you are thinking of him or her and the
loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great
ways to stay in touch.
Many people are not aware that
their community hospice is a valuable resource that can help
people who are struggling with grief and loss. Hospices provide
bereavement support to the families they serve and often offer
services to other members of the community as well.
Hospice is a philosophy of care for patients with life-limiting
illnesses. A team of professionals and trained volunteers offer
care and comfort to patients and their families when a cure is
no longer possible. Fully covered by Medicare and most insurance
companies, hospice services are available at home or in a facility
such as a nursing home. More information is available from the
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's Web site,
www.caringinfo.org or by calling the Ketchikan Volunteer Hospice
Ketchikan, Alaska - Throughout
our lives, all of us encounter difficult and challenging situations.
Most of us can remember someone who helped during those times--a
grandparent, a special teacher, even a stranger who became a
friend. The recollections of these "faces of caring"
bring comfort and calm in the midst of crisis.
Yet when recalling end-of-life
situations of those we love, many of us have different recollections.
These memories may include the hurt on the face of a loved one
in pain; the sorrow on the face of a family member who did not
get the opportunity to say goodbye to a dying relative; the stress
on the faces of those making difficult decisions about end-of-life
choices without guidance or support.
Since its beginnings in early
2006, KGH has trained two groups of volunteers in intensive week-long
orientation sessions. Training covers such topics as basic patient
care, death and dying, grief and bereavement, family dynamics,
and cultural concerns. These volunteers have made approximately
100 visits, and assisted fifteen families. Some of their typical
roles are companionship, providing respite, running errands,
and being resource persons when information is needed about end-of
life issues. They provide these volunteer services at no cost
"Our focus is to help
each family find their own unique way to a satisfying and meaningful
end," said Jerri Taylor-Elkins, Volunteer Hospice Coordinator
for KGH. "The volunteers and myself feel especially privileged
to be part of such a personal time for a family."
November is National Hospice
and Palliative Care Month. This month, professionals and volunteers
work to raise awareness of this invaluable system of care. Those
who provide hospice and palliative care offer pain and symptom
control, dignity, and spiritual and emotional care for both dying
persons and their loved ones when a cure is not possible. Hospice
and palliative care puts a "face" on quality end-of-life
care--the faces of nurses, doctors, social workers, spiritual
caregivers, homecare aides and volunteers who provide services
and support to families during one of life's most challenging
Facts about hospice care:
- More people choose hospice
and palliative care each year. The National Hospice and Palliative
Care Organization reports that there are more than 4,000 hospice
programs in the United States, and these programs cared for more
than 1.2 million people last year.
- For twenty-five years, hospice
has been a fully covered benefit under Medicare. Hospice is also
covered by Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs and other
managed care organizations.
- Hospice and palliative care
can take place in a variety of settings, including private homes,
hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
- Approximately 400,000 hospice
volunteers contribute more than 18 million hours per year.
- Hospice and palliative care
is an option for those with illnesses other than cancer, including
HIV/AIDS and dementia.
- Professionally-trained staff
help to facilitate communication between family members about
advance care planning, end-of-life wishes and decision making.
- Studies have shown that hospice
and palliative care directly address the concerns that many people
have about dying, which include being in pain and being a burden
- The majority of families whose
loved one was cared for by hospice overwhelmingly support their
decision to choose hospice care; the most common statement heard
is, "we wish we had chosen hospice sooner."
For more information, call
KGH Volunteer Hospice at 225-8914, or email email@example.com
E-mail your news &
photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
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