SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Hospice: Not a place, but a face


November 24, 2006
Friday PM

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 your family.
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, or by calling the Ketchikan Volunteer Hospice at 225-8914.

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 to families.

"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 times.

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 on family.
  • 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


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska