How You Can Help Patients & Families Cope During the Holidays
Written by Carrie Hawkins, LSW, Medical Social Services
Reflecting on the holidays can invoke some of our most cherished memories with family. The sights, smells, and sounds of the holiday are powerful reminders of all that we’ve shared with our loved ones. For hospice patients and their families, thoughts of the holidays can trigger an awareness that this year could be their last holiday season together.
Patients and families who engage in life review can find it to be gratifying and therapeutic. Life review in hospice is the process of thinking back on one’s life and communicating it to another person. It is sharing stories, traditions, songs, favorites, and any other aspect of their personal history. As Volunteers, you can encourage discussion of these treasured memories, holiday-related or other, and even offer to write down what they share in a notebook. You can ask family members if they would like pictures taken on family cameras or phones while you are there to capture everyday moments. The moments may seem small and insignificant today, but they can be precious in a year or two. Think about personally delivering a greeting card with handwritten sentiments that affirm patients and their caregivers. If you find your patient and family are not very talkative, consider bringing a short story and offer to read it aloud, or bring some of your patient’s favorite type of music to play while you visit. Remembering them with small gestures can make them feel like they matter.
As hospice volunteers, you can grant patients the gift of more time with family by offering to take tasks out of their hands and shorten their to-do lists. Helping with housekeeping, shopping, addressing cards and envelopes, wrapping and labeling gifts, and assisting them with a simple craft they might want to make for someone in their family are tasks volunteers have done in the past. If a patient cannot interact much and cannot be left alone, volunteers can help families by sitting with a patient while families run errands or just have some time out of the house.
Thank you for all you do for hospice patients and families. Your positive, peaceful presence and donated time are fantastic gifts you give this season, and Heart ‘n Home is so grateful for the difference you make.