Tag Archives: hospice

Living Between Life and Death: A Tribute to Uncle Hal

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Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. -Brené Brown

Today I gave a message at the Eugene Mennonite Church and below here is the take away.

I would like each of you to consider if you only had 6 days left on Earth, like Uncle Hal had from the day he admitted on hospice – are you living the life you want to be living? Do those you love and cherish know how you define a good death -for an instance do you want to die at home, amongst family or friends? And, are you in pain? How are you sharing your pain with others? Please do not suffer alone.
I leave you with this…
Grief never ends…but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…It is the price of love.

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Re-entry

Yesterday I started back to work.  By midday I was conflicted because I was so enjoying the training but I was also feeling extreme fatigue from the lack of sleeping the night before.  I was starting to feel a little sick to my stomach and as the afternoon progressed I realized I had some control over what was next.  Decided to cancel my teeth cleaning, that just was not important today.  Visited one of my dearest friends and saw a couple other colleagues, got hugs and empathy.  And headed home for a much needed nap.

Woke up refreshed and ready for my first private practice session since 10/10/15, the day after I found out my Uncle was admitted on hospice.  By evening I felt strong.  I took another hour nap and then was able to write like I’d wanted to write the last couple of days.  Not to say I haven’t been writing but I’m trying to document my last hours with Uncle Hal and from that come up with a message for Sunday, titled Living Between Life and Death.  I’m happy to see my subconscious has been doing a lot of this writing and I got into the flow last night.

Today I am back at Riverbend Hospital and on the floor with my MSW student.  To think, I was a brand new MSW student in October 2010.  We also have a site visit with the field liaison today.  I also have one private practice client after work at the hospital.  This morning I must draw strength from within.  It is going to be okay.  I am going to be okay.

Heron Park in Springfield, Oregon

Heron Park in Springfield, Oregon


Life Review

Life review is an important piece of counseling that I have studied and utilized in my work as a hospice social worker and volunteer.  It’s the process of thinking back on one’s life and sharing this with another person.  As a person brings their life to a close, this process can help a person know that they have left a legacy, that their life has had meaning and is of value.

This can be done with photos, scrapbooks, audio recordings, and video recording.  It can be done entirely orally, between two people, amongst a family together, and with friends.  Creating a permanent historical record (through journals, photo albums, collages, scrapbooks, family trees…) can be very meaningful for some families.

I’ve used aspects of life review in my own life.  This past weekend I got to spend time with my Aunt Gayle, also a social worker.  Sharing childhood stories has been something I’ve loved doing with her, connecting through our histories.  Today I took the time to go to one of my childhood homes, where I lived from 6 years of age until I was 18.  So many memories of my neighborhood friends with Sabrina, Stephanie, Justin, Katie, Beckie, Rachel, Brandon, and my sister.  From learning to roller skate and riding bikes, to learning about soccer, May Day and sharing adventures in the orchards.  Even with the difficult memories that I can remember living here, I’m ever so thankful for the good times in a place I called home.  IMGP3818


Knitting for Hospice

I’ve had fun knitting the last few months starting with knitting scarves for survivors of Sandy, a baby blanket for Maisy (still working on that one), matching scarves for my sister and me, and recently a scarf for a hospice client I’ve continued to volunteer to visit. I wore the scarf I made when I went to visit the client on hospice and she talked of being cold. I offered to make her a scarf and asked what color she would like. Pink was her choice. Only to find out once I got home I was out of all my pink yarn so I asked my friend Ann if she might have any spare pink yarn for me. I got a yes and promised a picture! So here’s my thank you Ann, for giving me this great yarn to make this scarf that I’m looking forward to handing to my client this week. Hoping its another bit of comfort, to remind this special person she’s thought of. IMGP3705


Hired for Hospice

About a year ago I got interested in hospice after a classmate, a church member, and a client’s baby died.  Follow that my cousin died.  I was curious about the process of working with a family as they are preparing for a loved one’s death, as well as the grief and loss process.  My research began in pediatric hospice, as I felt unprepared to support a young mom who was dealing with her baby’s death (she was just weeks old).  Hospice and palliative care is a philosophy of care that focuses on caring for a patient rather than curing an illness or disease with an overall goal of enabling people to live as fully and comfortably as possible.  I asked University of Southern California to place me in hospice for my concentration year field placement because I wanted to make sure it was a good fit.

In April of 2012 I started working at Signature Services in Eugene Oregon.  We grew from about 30 patients to about 55 currently and I’m told that once I have that diploma and the census is up to 75 I’ll be hired on as a full time social worker.  I’ve been asked, what does a hospice social worker do?  We can help clients get on Medicare/Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, placements from home to nursing homes or assisted living or foster homes, caregiver support, assistance with power of attorney or health care power of attorney, funeral planning, assistance with veteran’s benefits or senior and disabled services, assessing for elder abuse, emotional support for the client and their family, helping take pets to animal shelters, care conferences with multiple staff support people, I’ve checked out audio books at the library, gone on walks, advocated for bucket list items, filled out organ donor forms, and I’ve helped move belongings from one place to another.  I see my goal is to start where the client is, and to assist them when at all possible to help them close this chapter in their life as peacefully and as dignified as possible.

Folks have commented on how hard this work must be, and while it can be sad for me to say goodbye, it really is an honor.  First of all, I love to learn about the story of a person’s life and secondly, when they die, they are no longer suffering.  I have worked with too many clients, who while they may have been better off after receiving services provided by the agency I was working for – it is likely those clients’ lives would continue to be complicated by past traumas and life obstacles.  And I still had to say goodbye.

Last week I was offered a part-time position at Signature!  I’ll be supporting staff as an office assistant for the time being, as I finish up my last semester of graduate school.  I feel so blessed this month and excited about the future. Today, I got my photo id card so I feel “official.”  IMGP3529