Archive for January 2018

Why We Shouldn’t Compare Grief

Posted on Feb 14, 2018

In an effort to sympathize, empathize, or just relate to grieving friends and family, we often compare their grief to a time in our own life when we were grieving. This process can yield some helpful results such as common ground or lessons learned from past experience, but all too often the results and side effects aren’t great.

When we compare grief it’s very easy to compare timelines as well. We want to compare our grief to others to see if the way we’re handling the current situation, or handled the past situation, was in line with cultural norms. The only problem is that you’re comparing apples and oranges because no two grief stories are the same.

The circumstances surrounding the death might appear to be similar, but the relationship individuals have with the deceased are never the same, nor are the ways our personalities have been conditioned to handle grief.

Say one of three brothers passes away. The other two brothers will deal with the loss in two very different ways, even though it appears they went through the exact same situation. One brother might be closer than the other, one brother might be more naturally prone to depression, and there’s a long list of other factors that contribute to how we process grief.  

Comparing grief can cause us to be frustrated with others who don’t get over it as fast as we do or feel weak because we’re taking longer than others to adjust. Neither situation is conducive to coping with grief, so it’s best to avoid this practice.

Instead of comparing grief, try to focus on the why. Why are others dealing with grief the way they are? Why are you dealing with grief the way you are? You must answer these questions independently of each other. Only focus on one grief at a time. 

Making a Life Book

Posted on Feb 07, 2018

Families often look for ways to commemorate and memorialize their loved one’s life when they enter hospice care. One great way to do this is by creating a life book. These books are made up of a person’s life history, heritage, cherished stories, and advice for posterity. Making a life book not only gives the family a tangible keepsake to remember their loved one by, but the process of putting the book together can also be very therapeutic.

Make the Framework

The first step is to create a loose framework of the outline of the information you want to include in the book. Get a list of questions together and major events you think might paint a good picture of your loved one’s life. Remember, this is just a framework, and you’re likely to find more information you didn’t think of after talking with your loved one, so don’t hold on to this framework too tightly.

Some good general categories to start with are: where they grew up, what their childhood was like, where they went to school, how they met their spouse, what it was like to raise children, what they did for a living, the most important advice they ever heard, the happiest moment of their life, the craziest thing they ever did, favorite hobbies, and how they hope to be remembered.

Start with What You Already Know

Now that you have a framework, start filling it in with what you already know. Once you fill out everything you know, start asking friends and family to help fill in the gaps. This is also a great time to ask others if there are any other bits of information they think would make good additions to the book.

Set Up the Interview

After talking with friends and family it’s time to schedule a sit down with your loved one and talk with them about their life story. You’ll want to pick a time when you can have their full and undivided attention. It’s also a good idea to break up this interview process into a couple meeting so no one gets overwhelmed. Run through your list of questions and carefully write down or record their answers.

Putting it Together

You have two basic options when you’re putting all the information together – digital or print. If your tech savvy enough, you can use a variety of web-based memory book making services. These programs usually don’t charge you to put the book together, just to print it. If computers aren’t your thing, then head to the craft store and stock up on construction paper and scrapbooking supplies. Whichever way you go, it’s best to tell the story in chronological order and try to get as many pictures as possible.

3 Things To do with Grieving Children

Posted on Jan 28, 2018

Children process grief much differently than adults do and it’s important to offer age-appropriate grief support. One of the most difficult hurdles to overcome with grieving children is communication. A child who is still developing communication skills can have a hard time expressing what they’re feeling and tend to just shut down. If this happens to your child after experiencing the loss of a loved one, know that this is normal. Here are three ways you can breakthrough and help your kid through grief.

Get Back to Routine

Returning to your normal routine might seem counterintuitive, but most children do well with a consistent routine. You still need to give them time to morn and process, but jumping back into your regular schedule after a few days can restore a sense of normality for your child.

Create Activities

Creating a fun activity for the kids can be a great distraction from grief. Let them pick a new paint color for their room and have them help you apply a fresh coat. Go get a new board game and have a game night. Set up a TV in the backyard and watch their favorite movie under the stars. Anyway you can take their mind off it for a little while is a win.

Don’t Forget to Talk

Getting back to normal and finding new activities is good, but you still need to make time to talk about what happened. Carve out time to make sure you’re checking on their emotional state. Ask how they’re feeling and if they have any questions about death. It might be a short conversation, or it could be a long talk. Whatever the length, just make sure they’re processing everything in a healthy manner.

If you have concerns about their emotional state or mental health, remember that Cura-HPC offers bereavement counseling to family members for 12 months after a patient passes away. Our bereavement specialists would be happy to talk with you and your children to help guide your family through grief. 

Making Decisions as a Family

Posted on Jan 21, 2018

When patients don’t stipulate their healthcare wishes in an advanced directive, families will have to use their own discernment to make decisions about the loved one’s care plan. This can be kindling for some sharp disagreements and tough conversations. Even families with great relationships can struggle to make these kinds of decisions. However hard, these decisions need to be made in a timely manner to provide the proper level of care for the patient.

To help families negotiate these decisions, hospices will provide a social worker and chaplain who can offer advice and counsel families through this difficult time. One of the most important things to do during this time is to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. It might seem inefficient to seek so many opinions, but it’s vital that everyone who cares for the patient feels like they’re opinion matters.

Holding family meetings instead of playing phone tag is a great way to make the process run more smoothly. Getting everyone in the same room lets ideas and emotions flow organically and typically renders a final decision faster than other options.

Setting an agenda and appointing a facilitator for these meetings will be of great benefit. Doing so gives needed structure to a chaotic and confusing time for the family. However, don’t be afraid to go off script a little to validate other people’s emotions. Family members will likely be feeling emotions they’re not used to dealing with and you don’t want to overlook that.

Although it would be nice, not all decisions will be unanimous. People will disagree with others, and that’s okay. Go with the majority and do what you can to build consensus with the dissenting members. Let them know you appreciate their input and want to keep them involved in the process with future decisions that need to be made.

We have trained staff members ready to help families in times like this at Cura-HPC. If your loved one is in need of hospice care, please give us a call. 

Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

Posted on Jan 14, 2018

When a family member requires around the clock care, it can put a lot of stress on family members. Caregiving is often a full-time job, and when you’re a full-time caregiving on top of working your regular full-time job, stress, anxiety, and depression can easily creep in. This can test caregivers’ physical and emotional boundaries.

High levels of stress and fatigue associated with caregiving are so common that the term caregiving burnout was coined. This condition is incredibly common among family members who are acting as their dying loved one’s sole caregiver.

Every situation will be different, and the size of the family can have a big impact on caregiver burnout. When there are multiple family members willing to pitch in and help take care of the dying loved one, caregiver burnout tends to be less of a risk. On the other side of the coin, higher rates of burnout are seen when only one or two adult children are taking care of a dying parent.

How to Avoid Burnout

There are two steps that must be taken to avoid caregiver burnout – get help and don’t feel guilty. If you’re feeling like you’re getting burnt out, you probably are. This means it’s time to get some extra help. The good news is that there’s a good chance of qualifying for financial assistance through Medicare. Acknowledging the negative effects of caregiver burnout, Medicare offers caregiver support through home health aides and skilled nursing at a free or reduced cost.

Not feeling guilty is the second step to take, and it’s not as easy as you might think. While caregivers might fantasize about having a night off, they often feel guilty about not being with their loved one once they finally get one. It’s important to understand they your loved one is in good hands and will be taken care of. You don’t have to be by their side 24/7. 

Funeral Traditions Around the World

Posted on Jan 07, 2018

The funeral traditions in the states have stayed the same for many years now. We have a viewing, possibly a religious ceremony, and then a graveside service if the body will be buried. Cremation is also an option for those who don’t like the idea of a coffin. Keeping things the same might sound cliché to some, but it’s actually pretty helpful to have a sense of familiarity when families are going through a difficult, and often unfamiliar, time.

The funeral traditions in America were established over many years and, while they seem normal to us, they are quite different than funeral traditions around the world. Below is a small sample of some unique funeral traditions found in other cultures.

Jazz Funerals

We’re not going too far away from home for this first one. Down in the Big Easy a jazz funeral is a common site. This tradition became popular in New Orleans thanks to the mix of African and European cultures in the city. A jazz funeral starts with a march led by family, friends, and a brass band and ends at the cemetery. The band will play somber music, called a dirge, during the march, but will switch to more upbeat music once the procession leaves the gravesite. The purpose of switching to upbeat music is to have a lively celebration of the life of the deceased.

Custom Coffins

There isn’t a lot of coffin design variation in America, but that’s not the case in Ghana. In this little African country coffins are custom made to reflect the deceased’s personality and hobbies. A coffin can be in the shape of a race car, animal, shoes, airplanes and just about anything that can be made out of wood. Making these custom coffins can take months, which often delays funerals.

Burial Beads

Due to limited cemetery space in South Korea, the price of a burial is incredibly expensive. This high price tag forces most families to cremate their loved ones, but the ashes are made into colorful and decorative beads instead of keeping the ashes in an urn. Families can display these beads around the home. 

Tree Burial

Living trees serve as a burial site in certain regions of the Philippines. When a member of the community is nearing death, they will pick a tree in the forest and their family members will build a hut next to it. The dying person will live in this hut while their family works to hollow out a space in the trunk of the tree. Once the loved one has died, they will be vertically entombed in the trunk of the tree.