World Alzheimer’s Month

This month is World Alzheimer’s Month and the 21 specifically is World Alzheimer’s Day. Over 5 million people in the United Statesare currently living with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. As awareness is recognized this month for patients with the disease, those giving hospice care to patients should be saluted as well.

For each person that is living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia,  there is likely to be multiple others working with that person in an effort to provide the total care that is necessary to fight the disease. Alzheimer’s patients often need great care from a hospice or caregiver, especially in the latter stages of the disease as Dementia start to have a greater affect.

Even though the month is winding down in the next week or so, there are still plenty of ways you can recognize and increase awareness of the disease. You can have a great impact by wearing purple a few times this month to spread the message of Alzheimer’s awareness. Also, supporters can have an impact on Facebook by changing their profile pictures to the End Alz icon created by the Alzheimer’s Association.

This year, supporters are trying to spread awareness of the different effects of dementia. The fact that Alzheimer’s can affect anyone of any race, both men and women of any status or background makes it a disease that people should be highly aware of. Alzheimer’s is a disease that can transform an elderly person who seems independent into a patient who is completely dependent on care giving for their daily activities. 

Locally, this is where the impact of a hospice can come in. In Houston, there are not only Alzheimer’s patients in need of a care giver, but also patients suffering from multiple other diseases. For many of the elderly living independently, their lives could change overnight. With the help of respite care, the elderly will be given the proper amount of diligence and care in a Houston apartment or home. They are cared for by a team of doctors, nurses, aides, social workers, therapists, a chaplain and volunteers.

As the month of September draws to a close, we should aim to increase the awareness of this impactful disease by spreading knowledge throughout World Alzheimer’s Month. The effort in these months of awareness has a great impact by informing thousands throughout the world about the importance of hospice and respite care.

This article was written by guest blogger Paige Taylor, a recent graduate from the University of Texas El Paso.

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Labor of Love

With the Labor Day Holiday approaching this weekend, I really want to take the time to examine what this holiday means. Basically, Labor Day was made an official holiday in 1894 to coincide with the labor movement. Everyone needs an extra day off from the stress of work, but when your job is a caretaker, it’s a different story.

Photo by Gianluca Neri from flickr.com

This Labor Day, I want to encourage caretakers to take the whole day off from the responsibility of taking care of a sick loved one. I understand this is not an easy task to do and it may seem irresponsible, but I feel it is necessary to take a break.

For the most part, caretakers work harder than others. The majority of caretakers have multiple responsibilities that require the same amount of dedication and time. Imagine having the responsibility of a full-time job, children, a spouse as well as taking care of a sick loved one. The amount of stress and exhaustion that falls on the caretaker is tremendous and can cause serious health effects.

 Most caretakers push themselves too hard because they feel guilty if they are not giving 100% to all of their responsibilities. The guilt can cause caretakers to not take time off for themselves to relax and rest. Our bodies and minds need rest in order to function correctly. When we push ourselves to the maximum, we can cause harm to our bodies and our relationships can suffer.

 Caretakers, take Labor Day off. Ask a friend or relative for help and enjoy the day to relax. Your body and mind will thank you later. If you are alone and do not have anyone to reach out to, look into an adult daycare or a homecare nurse. Do not feel guilty about having a day to yourself. No matter what responsibilities and tasks we have, we are all still human and need a day to ourselves.

Friends or families of caretakers, encourage a day off for them. Volunteer to help and reassure caretakers that they deserve this day to themselves. Showing your support and enthusiasm will help ease the caretaker’s guilt and will give them a peace of mind.

When you’re a caretaker, you are a laborer of love. Your actions and decisions to provide care for a sick loved one all come from the heart. You deserve a day free from responsibilities to re-group and focus on your needs. Relax, rest and remember that having a healthy body, mind and attitude will allow you to be the best caretaker possible.

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Stop and Listen

Photo by Peter Kaminski from Flickr

 

When friends or family members approach us with a problem they are facing, one of our first reactions is to start talking right away. We either start spitting out phrases of love and support or we start giving advice. Although this is a common reaction coming from a good place inside ourselves, it’s not always the appropriate reaction. We need to stop and listen to our loved ones.

When someone comes to us with a problem, our first instinct is to make the person feel better right away with a loving or supportive comment. While this seems like the correct thing to do, we do not realize we’re not listening completely. The wheels in our brain are turning to find the right thing to say instead of listening to every word and emotion our friend is expressing.

One good way to start being a better listener is to eliminate all distractions while a friend confides in you. Choose a quite setting such as a living room or dining room. Make sure the TV is completely off along with other electronics. Turn your phone on silent and allow no extra guests or pets in the room. Be sure to face your friend and make eye contact unless that makes him or her uncomfortable.

Sometimes, our body language can mean more than our words. Feed off the energy your friends present and let your actions follow respectively. Lean in to show you’re listening if you’re loved one is speaking softly. Pat the back of their hand if they seem hesitant to share their feelings. Showing your loved ones that they have your undivided attention means more than saying they have your undivided attention.

Remain calm by taking deep breaths and focusing on the person. Sometimes our loved ones can drop a bombshell on us and our mind races into panic mode. When that happens, our thoughts become hazy and the loved one no longer has our undivided attention. If bad news breaks, repeat in your head, “I’ll worry about that later—what is my friend saying right now?” Having this calming presence will help your loved ones feel safe and composed.

Listening is a skill that takes much practice. Having a busy agenda can make people forget how to listen effectively. Remember to practice this skill with the people in your life in everyday situations. Ask friends to tell you about their weekend. Do not speak until they are completely finished, and then see what all you can repeat back. This fun exercise can help sharpen your listening skills and prepare you for when listening matters the most.

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What Does Hospice Mean to a 23-year-old?

Garden at Houston Hospice

I started working at Houston Hospice about a month ago. When I told my friends that I was interviewing for the position available here, their first reaction was, “You want to work at a hospice!? That sounds depressing.” For me to say that I didn’t think the same thing would be a lie. I had no idea what to expect because I’ve never been to a hospice before. I was familiar with death after losing many close friends and relatives, but I wasn’t used to death being accepted and peaceful.

 

A few years ago my grandpa died after fighting many years of being sick. He was over 90-years-old, had both legs amputated, and died weighing about 80 pounds in a nursing home bed. I’ve always struggled with this and wondered why we were trying to keep him alive. When he would be in hospital, he would talk to his mother, his father and siblings as if they were in the room. My grandma had passed away a year before and he seemed ready to be with her. The nursing home he stayed in was horribly depressing and it was hard for me to visit him.

 

Everyday at work, I wish my grandpa could have died in a place like this. The calm energy, the painted rooms and the warm staff would have made such a difference for my family and me. Working at a hospice has made me realize that death can be a peaceful process and not to fear it.

 

No 23-year-old wants to think about the possibility of dying because we feel our lives have just started. But when we can accept death and not fear it, then living is more valuable to us and the important things in life become apparent. Family and friends are put before money and possessions and the simple things rule over the extravagant things.

 

Working at a hospice is far from depressing—it’s an eye opener. Everyday you see bravery, love and peace. I feel lucky to witness these actions daily and to no longer fear death. And in a hectic world, it’s nice to see human compassion every day.

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ABC’s Beyond Belief, The Other Side

Wednesday night ABC aired an episode called The Other Side from their new summer series Primetime Nightline: Beyond Belief. In this episode, ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff interviewed people who have died and then come back to life. Woodruff has been curious about this topic since his own near-death experience in Iraq in 2006.

 

One of the most interesting parts of this episode was that three of the people Woodruff interviewed were from the Houston area. I thought this was interesting and their stories hit closer to home for me. Three of these hair-raising stories were from not only Americans, but Houstonians.

 

Woodruff interviewed people such as Rev. Don Piper of Pasadena from Pasadena who died for an hour and a half after a head on collision with an 18-wheeler in 1989. Piper wrote a book about his experience in heaven called 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life.

 

Other people interviewed from the Houston area included Erin Smith from Montgomery who was shot at age 17 and Houston therapist Mary Jo Rapini who suffered a brain aneurysm. Rapini has written a book called Is God Pink? Dying to Heal after she experienced a pinkish glow and heard God’s voice in her death experience.

 

Hearing these people’s stories was very touching and personal. Currently, I work at a hospice and death occurs almost every day. To hear stories from others who have witnessed peace after death is comforting for me. I’m sure this episode helped family members and close friends who have lost a loved one and are grieving. You can watch the full episode right here.

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The American Perception of Death

This photo was taken by jimmedia at www.flickr.com

Over the past 100 years, the word “death,” in American culture has almost become a politically incorrect term. Think about it. What do people usually say after a death? He is no longer with us. He has passed away. He is in a better place. Rarely, do you hear someone say, “he has died.” Why is this? Are we being sensitive to the subject, or have we become afraid of the word death?

 Different cultures and religions around the world have their own views about death. Most religions believe a spirit leaves the body after death and moves on to another place such as heaven or reincarnation. To acknowledge this act, most cultures have a strict ritual that takes place to insure the spirit has the appropriate journey to its final destination. 

Within the past 100 years, the process of how people live out their final days has changed. Before, loved ones would pass away in the comfort of their own homes and families. A couple of close family members were primary caregivers and they used their own medical cures and treatments rather than a doctor’s. The modern healthcare movement has placed more terminally ill patients in hospitals instead of the patients’ home.

 With the rise of hospices in the nation, it seems Americans are trying to learn how to accept death rather than defeat it. A hospice is designed to treat the patient, not the illness. This simple idea relieves a lot of stress from the patients and their families because the victory in a hospice is not beating the illness, but accepting it, along with the death that follows.

 Getting to the point of accepting and understanding death is something that can only be done through communication and education. Having someone close to share your emotions and beliefs about death without sparking a debate can help you become more comfortable with the subject. Also, educating yourself about cultures’ perspectives of death can help enrich your understanding and help bring closure.

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What Is Hospice Care?

Houston Hospice Staff

Houston Hospice Staff

When a patient with a severe illness decides that curative measures are no longer appropriate or effective, the option of hospice care is a compassionate, dignified and cost-effective end-of-life care option. When possible, the patient can receive treatment within his or her own home. The hospice team who visits the patient on a regular basis consists of a nurse, hospice aide, social worker, volunteer and chaplain. Staff physicians are consulted and are available when necessary.

 

The essence of Houston Hospice care is:

Following assessments in the areas of physical pain, emotional needs, spiritual issues, legal concerns and practical arrangements, the patient, family and physician approve a plan of care. Being involved in making the plan helps patients and families face the last stages of life more comfortably and confidently.

Patient care is provided by Houston Hospice in the home, in a nursing home or residential facility or in the Margaret Cullen Marshall Hospice Care Center which is located in the Texas Medical Center.

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When is Hospice an Appropriate Alternative?

Hospice care becomes an alternative when a patient has reached the last phases of a terminal illness and has been given a prognosis of six months or less.  The subject can be addressed at any time during the illness as physician and patient discuss treatment options.  When a patient chooses hospice, the decision to give up curative measures is made in favor of comfort care, focusing on pain management and symptom control, psychosocial support for both patient and family and ancillary services that lessen the burden of illness and care giving.

Please contact us or visit our web site  https://www.houstonhospice.org for more information.

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Houston Hospice 2011 Spirit Award Dinner Set for October 26

Kelli and Eddy Blanton

Kelli and Eddy Blanton

Kelli and Eddy Blanton are co-chairs for the upcoming Thirteenth Annual Spirit Award Dinner to be held Wednesday, October 26 at the River Oaks Country Club. The Blantons chair numerous events throughout the year and Houston Hospice is honored to have them lead us to another record breaking fundraising event. This is particularly special because the award is the Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award, named so for Eddy Blanton’s mother.

The Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award was created in 1999. Houston Hospice named the Community Spirit Award in honor and memory of Laura Lee Blanton who dedicated herself to making a difference in the community. The recipient(s) of this award support a wide range of community efforts through their energy, enthusiasm, time and resources. Past recipients are Jack S. Blanton, Janet and Ernie Cockrell, Dr. John P. McGovern, The Honorable and Mrs. James A. Baker, III, Dr. Richard E. Wainerdi, Mary and Tony Gracely, Connie Baird Linbeck, Harriet and Joe Foster, Jes and John Hagale, Margaret R. Caddy and Sarita and Bob Hixon.

This year’s Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award will be presented to Maureen and Jim Hackett. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to present this award to Maureen and Jim, who have not only been friends and supporters of Houston Hospice, but of the entire community,” remarks President & CEO Jim Faucett.

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