I will always remember my hospice patient’s dog, Jack. Jack was a medium-sized, furry mutt, with all the friendliness of a well-loved and trained dog. My patient was a man who was deeply loved by family and friends... and his dog, Jack.
As the patient was dying, Jack was lying awake with his head on his front legs, under the patient’s bed. The family told me Jack had been there over 24 hours and was refusing to come out to eat or drink. Jack and his human friend were inseparable in life. And Jack stayed there, under the patient’s bed, until the funeral home arrived.
His wife died. He is now a single parent to two young children. His daughter comforts him. She hugs him tight: “It’s okay, daddy.”
Other families in the room acknowledge, they are just like us.
Just like us, this family lost someone very dear and special to them. Just like us, they grieve. Just like us, they journey forward.
The message was simple, but powerful. “Thank you” are the words our supporters heard when they picked up the phone on Thursday, January 25 during the JourneyCare Foundation’s annual Thank-a-Thon. Volunteers from throughout our agency – the Foundation, Board members, leadership and volunteers – spent the day calling our nearly 7,000 generous donors from the WTTW studios in Chicago to express our gratitude for all they make possible.
Last December I had the pleasure of visiting a retired artist and teacher. His advanced prostate cancer left him with pain throughout his body, and his bladder spasms and infections had helped to slowly cease his social life. He was referred to music therapy services to elevate his mood and lessen social isolation, to promote reminiscence, story-sharing, and life review, and to refocus him away from feelings of pain and discomfort. As with all clients who I see for music therapy, I have the wonderful challenge of finding how music interventions can assist in easing identified symptoms. Knowing that the brain can only take in so much information at once, using Brian’s* preferred music held his attention and engaged him in enjoyable and meaningful moments, pulling his focus away from his pain. The perception of his pain and discomfort lessened as we sang together and talked about the music he loved throughout his life.
Looking to start 2018 off right? Become a JourneyCare volunteer!
Did you know Medicare requires that 5% of all patient care hours be provided by volunteers? JourneyCare is seeking volunteers to support patients, families, and staff so that, together, we can enrich lives through expert and compassionate care. Volunteers are an essential part of our team’s success!
‘Tis the season of comfort and joy. How is that possible working with Jewish patients in hospice? That’s not as much of a challenge as might one think. As a Jewish Care Service Ambassador, I have the wonderful opportunity to visit with our Jewish hospice patients and provide Jewish support and companionship.
Pelayia Limbos was an extraordinary artist. She was also my best friend, as well as my mother. Her paintings and photography reflect the many facets of her "core being." She was brilliant, pioneering, solid, modest, gentle, soft spoken, subtle, complex, honest and to put it simply – exceptional.
Her style was definitely her own. She was an individual, and she was completely authentic. I found it hard to imagine, however it’s true, that my mom did not believe the masses liked or appreciated her artwork! When I reminded her that someone had commented on the absence of a newsletter issue, or that a friend had just requested to be on her newsletter list (or when the deadline was missed, due to illness or life ... or that people were inquiring/still awaiting its arrival) … or when I tried to remind her that people purchased her paintings from her original art show many years ago ... or when I reminded her, “that it is always an honor... whenever people choose to hang an artist’s work in their home”... she consistently, modestly replied, “Oh, they are just being kind.”
One of the highlights of my career as a Massage Therapist and member of JourneyCare's Integrative Therapies team was also the most challenging of all. My husband and love of my life, Peter, was the patient, unfortunately, at the young age of 64. It tested all my strength, boundaries, love and belief in God and this world.
Peter inspired me to become a massage therapist and always supported and loved therapeutic massages, which he always insisted I do to practice on him (in the beginning) and then after that because it helped him so much.
I like to talk. I talk a lot. Many of my coworkers know this already. Sometimes I talk because I have something to say. Sometimes I talk to fill space and silence.
I like to listen. I listen a lot. I love to listen to the stories and the memories I am privileged to hear from patients, families, facility staff, caregivers, and my coworkers. Hopefully my coworkers would tell you I listen too. Hopefully.
What happens when there isn’t much to say? What happens when words fail us or simply cannot adequately express what is happening or what someone is feeling? And, if no one’s saying anything, what is there to listen to? This is a time for presence.
During this Pastoral Care Week, I would like to celebrate the chaplains at JourneyCare and around the world for all the care that you provide to people and families in the various ways you serve. As I reflect on my own pastoral care journey, I am appreciative of the profession I feel called to do.
What do I love about hospice care? I love that it is not specifically focused on death, but on the life of the patient. As a chaplain, this has afforded me the opportunity to hear each patient's life journey. It is in this sharing that I have gained the opportunity to celebrate patients’ lives in the present. Listening to the patients and their families allows their life experiences to be honored. It also has allowed me the opportunity to hear how their lives connect the past, present and their desires in their final months and days. These stories have really influenced my calling as a chaplain.