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The End of Life as a Life Lesson

The End of Life as a Life Lesson

My beloved late husband, who died November 11, 2014, was in the care of JourneyCare in our home for the last four days of his life. Coming from Serbia, neither one of us knew much about this health service, except that we were both scared by the word “hospice!” We associated it with the end of life and we were both horrified.

“Please don’t mention the word hospice,” I begged a social worker, who later helped both of us a great deal. “No worries, nobody likes that word,” she told me with a hug like a sister, and sympathy deep in her eyes.

Life Turned Upside Down

Life Turned Upside Down

April is Counseling Awareness Month.

Some say they don’t want counseling. Some say they don’t need counseling. Personally, I'm a big believer in counseling. In bereavement. In seeking some sort of help. Some sort of support. Some sort of release.

When you lose a loved one, your life is turned upside down. Your mind is tired. Your heart is broken. Help is available. Help can be sought. And dare I say, help should be sought.

I fell in love with my beautiful wife at the age of eighteen, and we dated for one year. We spent eight years apart, until fate brought us back together. At the age of 30, she took her last breath with us.

We’re All Mortals. Let’s Plan Ahead.

We’re All Mortals. Let’s Plan Ahead.

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a nationwide initiative that aims to help people across the U.S. understand the value of advance healthcare planning.

I want to tell you about why I'm passionate about advance directives, with a hint of my irreverent sense of humor to boot.

Advance directives should be filled out when we are healthy and lucid. They should not be something we hastily prepare as our stretcher is being loaded into an ambulance.

They don't affect our everyday lives or even take effect until we are unable to make healthcare decisions for ourselves. How many people end up being non-decisional at some point? I’ve worked at the JourneyCare’s Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter in Barrington for five years now, and I can say, without exaggeration, that everyone reaches a point wherein they are unable to make decisions for themselves. This appears to only apply to mortals. So far, I have been alive for 29 years and it appears that everyone is mortal, possibly even including myself.

Celebrating in Song

Celebrating in Song

As JourneyCare’s Jewish Care Services Ambassador, I've found that there’s no better way to reminisce with our Jewish patients than talking about the major holidays and the memories associated with them. Beginning at sundown on April 10, through April 18 of this year, we will be celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover, also known as the Festival of Freedom.

The eight-day holiday commemorates the emancipation of the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt. The Passover Seder is our traditional and family oriented ritual-packed feast. As we prepare for the upcoming holiday, I relish the old traditional songs I get to sing with our hospice patients. 

The Gift of Listening

The Gift of Listening

Part of good communication skills is the ability to listen. It's especially true in my role as a hospice social worker. 

Being skilled in communication and assessment is vital to my work. These skills allow me to best identify the challenges my patients and their families face, and ensure I’m able to meet their needs.

I may find a patient’s wife tearful as she recognizes the decline in her husband. Sitting with her, I'll place my hand over hers when she squeezes tightly. The act of joining her for a cup of tea and normalizing these recent changes is something I can do to provide her comfort.

A Welcome Guest in Lives of Patients and Families

A Welcome Guest in Lives of Patients and Families

Everyone has heard the words “social work” and “social worker," but do you know what they really mean? When I was growing up, I thought social workers were men and women who wanted to devote their lives working in underprivileged countries helping poor people enrich their lives.

Well, I grew up and learned I wasn’t completely wrong. And after 20 plus years as a social worker, I continue to learn everyday what social work and being a social worker truly mean.

As a hospice social worker I wear many hats. I am a noun, verb, adverb and adjective. I'm a counselor, confidante, advocate, researcher and resource. I'm a cheerleader, motivator, listener, party planner, wedding coordinator and dream maker.

Mainly, I am a humbled and privileged, invited guest into the lives of patients and families who I've been honored to know over the years. Here are a few of them:

Hospice Is Not a Place. It's So Much More.

Hospice Is Not a Place. It's So Much More.

Hospice is not a place. It is a philosophy of care.

Hospice focuses on providing compassionate care to patients with terminal illnesses once curative treatment has ended.

Hospice happens anywhere the patient calls home, from the house they grew old in, or a new place they have come to call home — be it in assisted living, a nursing home, a residential facility or a hospice carecenter.

There Is Hope in Hospice

There Is Hope in Hospice

Choosing hospice care doesn’t mean giving up hope — you are in fact redefining it.

While those who choose hospice accept that further medical treatment almost certainly won't help them, they also choose to redirect their hope into mending and restoring relationships, spending quality time with those they love, and finding peace and comfort.

 

Support for Siblings of Children Living with Illness

Support for Siblings of Children Living with Illness

“I just want her to be comfortable.”
“How much longer will she be with us?”
“God is happy that my brother is with Him now. He is giving my brother a hug and is glad my brother is there to make Him laugh.”

Working in pediatic palliative and hospice care, I've seen that it can be easy for siblings to “get lost” amongst all that is happening when they have a brother or sister with life-threatening illness. 

Given the understandably consuming emotions and frequently busy environment, siblings are often left to understand and process what has been experienced or witnessed on their own.

Sympathetic adults often feel at a loss regarding how to disclose a sibling’s illness, or anticipated death, or how to prepare a sibling for such a death — a death that they themselves are still trying to grasp and reconcile.

Let The Music Play: Connecting Through Dementia

Let The Music Play: Connecting Through Dementia

Susan was overwhelmed. Her job allowed her to work from home to care for her mother, Adeline, but juggling work tasks with her mother’s increasing need for care proved challenging beyond what she thought was possible. 

Adeline had dementia and colon cancer. She had been a school teacher and in between moments of agitation she still had a warm, friendly tone to her now nonsensical speech.

As a music therapist for Adeline, I would visit her home, and Susan was always quick to apologize as their three large, joyful rescue dogs tripped over each other to greet me at the door, or tried to vocalize along with our music. Even with a caregiver eight hours a day and support from our hospice staff, Susan was hurried and anxious.

Susan grieved her mother’s cognitive decline. Growing up, she had admired her mother’s intelligence and was taught to value her own. Now that Adeline could no longer answer simple questions, Susan felt her mom was "already gone." She spoke of rare moments of increased lucidity like visits from a ghost — each time her mother was able to orient to reality and speak with her, she knew it may be the last time.

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