The other day I sat in with a group of older adults who had recently moved into a senior housing complex. They talked about the emotional dynamic of transitioning to a new living environment. They spoke of loneliness, fear of change, and sadness at the loss of their former homes.
A similar set of emotions is present when a person faces the last stages of a terminal illness. Hospice care is dedicated to helping ease these inevitable difficulties. The hospice team becomes a community within the community to accompany the patient and family during this difficult life moment.
The fear of pain is usually foremost in everyone’s mind. Nurses, guided by the Hospice Medical Director who is trained in Palliative Medicine, bring in their “toolbox” of aid to mitigate physical and psychological pain. Medical attention is available 24/7 without the need to rush back to the emergency room or physician’s office. A well-trained aide assists with personal needs. No system is perfect, but hospice care at home can manage most situations and, for acute issues, short in-patient hospital stays are arranged.
For some the fear of dying, for others the fear of death itself or the unknown beyond this world loom large. For most the impending loss of beloved relationships is profound and generates deep sadness. This is also a lonely time when both patient and those surrounding tend to shy away from frank and open talk about what is happening. The presence of the proverbial ”elephant in the room” intensifies the loneliness.
Social workers with good listening skills, practical suggestions and thoughtful perspective provide a special kind of support to address these emotions.
As the Rabbinic Director, working as integral art of a hospice team, it is my privilege to guide patients to tend the spiritual core of a their life-journey, hopefully reaching a sense of wholeness and peace.
Volunteers are ready to stem the loneliness and to be of practical assistance to both the patient and primary care givers. Their compassionate companionship and assistance with small chores round out the full body of services that hospice teams offer.
Finally, a hospice team remains present for many months to support bereaved family members and offer guidance, another demonstration of their willingness to gently guide this final life transition.
The hospice team forms a “community within the community” to envelope a family in need with skill and compassion at this critical life moment.
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2016 update: Rabbi Blumberg has since retired. Read our blog about his retirement and the Chesed Fund for Hospice Care that will continue his legacy.
About Hospice Care at Hebrew Seniorlife
The hospice care offered at Hebrew Seniorlife as part of our continuum of health care services, is dedicated to offering medical care aimed at easing patients’ pain and anxiety. A leading provider of Jewish hospice services in the Boston area, we are known for delivering the highest quality of care, focusing on a commitment to community, and offering innovative end-of-life educational programming. We welcome patients and their families of all backgrounds, faiths and cultures, supporting them through the challenging weeks and months of terminal illness and remaining close by as they begin to heal after loss.