Abridge: Never Miss Your Doctor’s Feedback Again

Posted on Jan 07, 2020

The image featured is used from the official website of Abridge. 

Even for those in relatively good health, doctor’s visits can still be nerve-wracking. “White coat syndrome” — appointment-induced anxiety — has been shown to spike a patient’s blood pressure far above what would be considered an accurate reading. Compound these jitters with receiving life-changing feedback and this can make properly digesting a doctor’s explanations and recommendations quite a feat. Fortunately, one mobile device application is taking the stress out of taking accurate notes — Abridge.

How Does it Work?

Abridge is a mobile device application available for free for iOS and Android operating systems. During a doctor’s appointment, a patient, caregiver, or anyone accompanying the patient can open the application and begin recording the doctor’s feedback and answers. This application wouldn’t be very groundbreaking if it were just another audio recording, though. To best serve patients and those caring for them, Abridge also automatically transcribes the conversation, accurately capturing details specific to the healthcare field. Standard transcription services often mistranscribe these anatomical, medicinal, and disease-based terms. Once the appointment is over, the app user only needs to tap the same button they used to start recording, and the program begins to transcribe the conversation automatically. If the app-user so chooses, they can enter additional appointment details and email the discussion and/or transcription anywhere they like directly from the application.

Why Use Abridge?

Even if we’re naturally scatterbrained individuals, when a medical professional is giving us feedback concerning our condition, we strive to be all ears. Despite some of our best efforts, many of us may mishear information or focus on specific details over others. This mishearing may result in missing suggested recommendations, feedback on conditions, or undue anxiety because of miscommunication.

The Importance of Accurate Notes

Sometimes in life, our minds have a funny way of allowing us to “mishear” what is plainly said. Anxiety can cause us to focus on negative feedback disproportionately. Denial can cause us to miss specific details. A patient with their loved one can sit in on the same doctor’s visit, and both claim they heard a report opposite to that of the other person. An accurately transcribed recording of the doctor’s feedback can be immensely helpful for those in emotionally charged medical situations.

Easy Coordination of Care

Most of us who end up needing medical treatment will likely not receive this care from one source or a single individual. A doctor may diagnose an ailment and prescribe therapy or medicine. The visit will need to be covered by a health insurance provider. A prescription will need to be filled by a pharmacy. A nurse may require specific care instructions. If the patient is experiencing dementia, the amount of information a caregiver needs to coordinate alone can be a significant source of anxiety. Proper recording and transcription of doctor and nurse feedback can help caregivers arrange the type of care a beloved patient may need.

If you would like to learn more about Abridge and download the totally free application on your mobile device, proceed to Abridge.com to sign up today.

Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care is proud to serve the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.

Processing Grief Through Journaling (+ A Bonus Tip)

Posted on Jan 07, 2020

Several different emotions emerge in the wake of a loved one's passing. Numbness. Sadness. Emptiness. Pain. Regret. Nostalgia. Fear. Anxiety. There are too many to list, let alone process. These feelings can seem insurmountable. There are, however, some straightforward ways to begin to process feelings of grief. One such technique is the practice of journaling.

"Why would I want to journal my pain?"

If you've ever heard of the notion of journaling or perhaps dabbled in the process, writing about your pain may seem like the last thing you want to do. However, there are many incredible benefits to journaling about your feelings when in grief.

Active Processing of Emotions Into Words

The emotions associated with grief often feel incredibly raw. In many instances, this is because they are — completely unrefined, unprocessed, like wheat not ready for consumption. However, as you sit and consider how to begin to put your thoughts and emotions into words, this act helps to process your feelings. Like wheat in the mill is crushed to make flour, passing your feelings through the prefrontal cortex of the brain to label them and transform them into words can help defang these feelings for heightened processing. One brain imaging study even found that when specific labels are attached to negative emotions, this decreased the activity for these painful concepts in the amygdala — the section of the brain responsible for the perception of emotions.

"Sometimes, the only way around suffering is to go straight through it." - Anik Sarkar

Feeling Heard Without "Inconveniencing" Anyone

If you're like many people in grief, you may feel like expressing your pain makes you a "Debbie Downer" — inconveniencing others by bumming them out. Even though you likely have people close to you who are willing to lend an ear or shoulder as well as grief counselors, you may still feel odd about expressing your heartfelt pain to another. During these times, pouring out your emotions to a journal can be immensely therapeutic.

Think of a journal as the least judgemental friend. Your journal will never tell you to "snap out of it" or give you cues that they're tired of hearing all about your internal turmoil. They will stick by you for as long as you need to pour out your heart, to process your emotions, and to capture your tears. Even if you were to discard a journal entry immediately upon writing it, for the moments spent crafting every word, you were heard — by the pen, by the pages, by every line, by your fingers, and perhaps most importantly, by you. For this reason, journaling can begin to feel like a gift of relief you give yourself — permission to be vulnerable and to process your innermost thoughts and emotions.

Journaling Can Help Capture Memories

When prepping friends and family to interact with a grieving loved one, one of the most commonly asked questions is whether or not to mention the departed. The fear is that bringing up cherished memories will only reopen emotional wounds. As someone grieving, you likely understand that there's nothing you'd rather relive than the beautiful moments you spent with that one who has died. Journaling gives you a chance to not only relive these moments but also to capture them on pages for safekeeping.

When journaling, feel free to recall the details of a great day you shared with this loved one. Recollect every detail you can, the sights, sounds, sensations, smells, actions, and feelings — putting them into words on the page. Give these moments a chance at a second life in a way you can go back through later — just like you would with a photo album or older home movies. Not only is the act of reliving these moments immensely enjoyable, but putting them into words can help you process associated grief in the ways we discussed earlier in this piece.

What Journaling Can Look Like

There's no wrong way to journal.

Perhaps the only wrong way to journal is to not journal at all. Whether you only write a phrase or fill pages with emotions and memories, you're in charge of how to start journaling any time.

Typing vs. Handwriting

If they are faster typists, some individuals choose to type their journal entries for the speed of getting ideas out. They may also like being able to carefully organize journal files and use search functions for recalling certain days, topics, or concepts. For the majority of people, they prefer the cathartic act of putting pen to paper. Something about thinking carefully about each word that will be written without the escape of a backspace key can be very appealing. Either method is up to your preference.

Journaling Using Prompts

There will be times when you want to write in your journal, but feel stuck. For these occasions, there are many grief-related journaling prompts that can help. Some may journal by writing to their departed loved one in letter form. Some jumping-off sentences can include, "I remember the time...", "That time you made me laugh...", and "The greatest thing you taught me was..." One particularly useful prompt some recommend is writing the narrative of your loss, but in the third-person — from the perspective of a fly on the wall, so to speak. As you write this story, leaning into an outsider's perspective, list recommendations and consolations you would give yourself if you were someone else looking in.

Free Journaling

Sometimes, you won't want to be given a "homework assignment" in your journaling practice. These instances are great opportunities to just let feelings spill onto the page. If you're totally stuck and don't know what to write about, write about that and how that makes you feel. Follow that emotion wherever it goes. Don't feel the need to use correct spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Just use the page as a release valve and follow the internal narrative wherever it takes you.

Bonus: Beginning to Heal With a Gratitude Journal

At times, having an assignment can significantly affect our frame of mind. One such task is by writing a handful of things you are grateful for that day. Try to keep it fresh — thinking of a new item or concept to list every day. As you run out of the main items, such as health, family, employment, food, and housing, you will have to search deeper for things you appreciate. These can be as immense as closing a massive deal at work or seemingly small as someone opening the door for you. As you continue your gratitude journaling assignment, you will subconsciously start keeping an eye out for new instances or concepts to add to your gratitude journal. Over time, this practice will make you more conscious of the pleasantries of your daily life.

For additional help navigating the grieving process, the friendly professionals from CURA HPC Hospice & Palliative Care in Tulsa, Oklahoma, can help.

Mindfulness Meditation & Grief: Managing Compulsive Rumination

Posted on Dec 20, 2019

mindfulness meditation for grief

Losing a loved one can leave you with an open void in your being — a hole that you try to fill with memories as well as thoughts of what could have been. Clinging to memories, agonizing over their passing, and pondering a world where they’re still with you — all of these mental activities can make it enormously challenging to return to any semblance of a normal life. Some, however, are working to manage their grief by training their minds to focus on the present rather than remain tangled in the past or future. Such a practice is popularly known as Mindfulness Meditation.

Isn’t meditation for people who eat tofu and smell like patchouli? 

If you’re like most people, initial thoughts of meditation include hippies in tie-dye sitting cross-legged with their fingers pinched towards the sky. Unfortunately, this has been the reputation meditation has suffered from for over a generation. As ABC’s News correspondent and meditation advocate Dan Harris once put it, “Meditation has been the victim of the worst marketing campaign ever.” However, a growing body of scientific research is busting the misconception that meditation is solely for vegetarians who burn sage to ward off negative energy. The benefits of the secular practice of Mindfulness Meditation include everything from stress reduction, managing anxiety, depression, and one’s attention span. No hocus pocus required.

How does Mindfulness Meditation work?

The “mindfulness” aspect of Mindfulness Meditation is built on the idea that we can train our minds to better identify moments of rumination, perceive them without judgment, and let them go like clouds in the sky. 

Neuroplasticity: the ability to reshape your mind.

For generations, scientists were under the impression that, once our brains were fully developed, the ability to grow new neural pathways ceases. Studies by researchers in the 20th century, however, provided evidence of neuroplasticity — the ability for our brains to establish new pathways and even change shape. These new studies only confirmed old truths understood by long-time practitioners of Mindfulness Meditation — many who had been retraining their minds towards positive focus for generations.

What does Mindfulness Meditation look like from the meditator’s perspective?

A regular daily Mindfulness Meditation session usually proceeds like so: A person sits comfortably either on a cushion on the floor or in a straight-back chair. They keep their spine straight, head level, and eyes closed. They then bring their full attention to the raw sensation of their breath — either on their nostrils, chest, or belly. While attempting to bring their full attention to their breath, random thoughts inevitably start — what the Buddhists call "the Monkey Mind." These thoughts may vary from what to eat for lunch to regret over a joke that bombed in yesterday's meeting. The goal of Mindfulness Meditation is simply to notice that one is, in fact, thinking. Once a thought is detected, the practitioner returns their focus back to their breath. Many practitioners will even make a mental note once they realize they are thinking, allow themselves to observe the thought without analyzing its contents, and then return their attention back to the present moment by focusing on their breath. These seated Mindfulness Meditation sessions can last anywhere from 10-30 minutes a day. Some practitioners prefer guided meditations in the form of audio recordings or through classes at a meditation center. Others prefer to meditate alone and unguided.

How does Mindfulness Meditation help with grief, anxiety, and depression?

Mindfulness Meditation heightens a mental skill known as “meta-awareness” — the ability to recognize when you are lost in thought. Meta-awareness also allows a person to realize that they are separate from the voice in their head that we all experience. Continued sessions of Mindfulness Meditation helps one resist being dragged around by their thoughts, ruminations, and emotions. Each instance of noticing that you are lost in thought is a “bicep curl for the brain,” according to Dan Harris. Continued practice develops the skill to more quickly notice "monkey mind" ruminations and to return focus on the present moment. Several scientific studies have shown that mindfuless helps develop emotional regulation of the brain.

Though depression and anxiety are also the possible product of chemical imbalance, they can also be the product of uncontrollable rumination. Mindfulness Meditation has been shown in various studies to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. In one study, Mindfulness Meditation was shown to be equally effective as medication in reducing the likelihood of depressive relapse for participants.

“But I’m not trying to forget my loved one.”

One possible objection to Mindfulness Meditation for the treatment of the symptoms of grief is the idea that meditators are attempting to trick their brains into being happy. While greater emotional control is a benefit of Mindfulness Meditation, the primary benefit of the practice is the reduction of compulsive rumination and a renewed focus on the present. Even when the present moment is challenging, regular meditation sessions can help alleviate the emotional suppression that can hold someone back from processing grief. Suppressing emotions can greatly extend symptoms of depression and anxiety associated with grief. Mindfulness Meditation can help sufferers start to gain a footing on their own emotional journey towards healing.

How to Begin a Mindfulness Meditation Practice

To see if Mindfulness Meditation is beneficial to you, various guided meditation apps, books, and classes exist to help. Some of the most popular guided meditation services are Calm, the Ten Percent Happier App, Headspace, and Waking Up. Courses in Mindfulness Meditation also likely exist in your area either through independent centers or wellness institutions.

The friendly specialists at CURA-HPC believe that hospice and palliative care goes beyond the patient — also extending to caregivers and loved ones. You’re invited to learn more about CURA-HPC Hospice and Palliative Services today.

Managing Grief During the Holiday Season

Posted on Dec 19, 2019

lonely grieving woman during the holidays

For many, the holiday season is a time of immense joy — when families come together, braving the cold to enjoy each other’s warmth. Beautiful memories are made and past memories are remembered during this time of year. However, for those grieving the loss of a spouse, a parent, a family member, a friend, or even a child, the holidays can be a great source of distress and reopen emotional wounds. While this is a perfectly normal aspect of the grieving process, there are ways to minimize the anxiety of “the most wonderful time of the year.” 

Withdrawing or faking joy are not your only options. 

A side effect of our fear of being viewed as a burden is a perceived polarization of our social options. You may feel that, unless you can maintain a joyful disposition, that you should withdraw from social gatherings. You might fear that your own emotional state may diminish the holiday experience for others. This mindset frequently leads to two false scenarios. 

  1. You feel the need “to put on a brave face” — a fake smile or a phony cheery disposition. While this feels like a decent band-aid for getting through the holidays, this emotional dichotomy can deepen sadness, perpetuate anxiety, and make any gathering exhausting. 
  2. You may feel that, unless you can appear joyful, that you should just stay home. This may stem from fear of emotionally contaminating the gathering. Withdrawing from events as though your grief is contagious can seem like a logical approach. Though it seems plausible, this too can increase future anxieties about the holiday season. The physical and emotional quarantine can also exacerbate rumination and intensify grief. 

There is an overlooked third option. 

What is the third option? Giving yourself permission to be fully and genuinely yourself. Your family and friends love you. As much as they want to see you happy, even more so, they want to see you — a “you” comfortable in your own skin. They want you to feel safe opening up and being yourself. They certainly don’t want you to feel obligated to keep up appearances or feel the need to remain distant. 

Don’t feel obligated to maintain lofty expectations. 

For being a joyful season, the holidays are frequently loaded with anxiety-inducing expectations even for those not experiencing grief. If you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one this year, you may feel that you need to keep certain family traditions alive even when you’re emotionally or physically exhausted. The good news? You don’t. While you may choose to do certain activities to honor a person’s memory, realize that you’re allowed to set the pace and tone for any holiday activity. 

Give yourself permission to be fully present. 

When you feel depressed, grief-stricken, or even just missing a loved one during the holiday season, these emotions can take you out of the present moment. It can be difficult to fully experience any holiday gathering while this loved one is on your mind. When you start to feel these painful emotions of loss bubble up inside, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and give yourself permission to be fully present. You don’t have to force it or condemn your negative emotions, but by simply allowing yourself to be present and form new positive memories, you can begin to enjoy the holidays. Remember that the loved one you are grieving would want nothing more than for you to be fully present and enjoy your holiday season. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

If you’re experiencing grief during the holidays, it can be easy to feel like a burden to others. You’re not. You may actually be surprised just how much family and friends want to help you, but you have to let them. Whether you need help cooking food, cleaning, preparing for an event, or lending their ear, don’t feel like you are imposing on your loved ones by asking for assistance. During this season of gifts wrapped in elaborate paper and topped with fancy bows, your loved ones would prefer to give the gift of their time and energy. 

Whether you’re experiencing extreme grief or just feel like talking with someone would help you manage negative emotions, there’s no shame in seeking the help of a supportive professional. An experienced therapist can supply the professional support necessary to help you endure the holiday season and lead you into a brighter new year. 

The hospice professionals from CURA HPC are proud to offer grief counseling services. You’re invited to learn more about CURA HPC Hospice & Palliative Care today. 

The Role of a Hospice Chaplain

Posted on Nov 21, 2019

hospice chaplain

We are all multifaceted beings with different needs. Attending physicians and caretakers tend to our physical health. Social workers can tend to our mental and emotional health. These are both essential members of a hospice care team. Just as these experienced professionals handle their respective specialties, so too does a hospice chaplain tend to the spiritual and many emotional needs of those receiving hospice care.

Navigating a Spiritual Journey

Towards the end of life, one's spiritual health is a crucial facet of their overall wellbeing. For some, the process of dying can be a confusing part of life that provokes a good deal of anxiety, depression, and even anger. Just as they have in life, many will look to spiritual practices, concepts, and specialists to help quell turbulent emotions and prepare them for death. Hospice chaplains help these patients to navigate their spiritual journey.

Who are Hospice Chaplains?

A hospice chaplain is typically a spiritual cleric of sorts employed by the hospice organization. This person is highly trained and experienced in helping those in hospice care and their families to achieve spiritual peace throughout the dying process. They can provide this peace and comfort by helping to answer questions, providing helpful spiritual wisdom to ease the mind and spirit of the patient by listening. Other times, a hospice chaplain best serves just by being silently present.

Hospice chaplains may be of a specific religious denomination, though most will have an interfaith background to assist patients of varying religious paths. All hospice chaplains are specially trained and experienced in unique challenges and concerns of the dying. Some find they may even be of more comfort to them than their regular chosen clerics.

Who Receives the Care of Hospice Chaplains?

Any hospice patient can request the consultation of a hospice chaplain. Some patients will already have a closer relationship with a non-hospice chaplain, such as a family priest, rabbi, minister, or imam — and may opt to visit with them instead. Other patients may not want any form of spiritual guide, instead opting for the spiritual care of friends and family. Regardless of a patient's religious affiliation or beliefs, hospice chaplains of any background will respect their faith and provide any support within their abilities.

Hospice Chaplains Provide Companionship

There are, unfortunately, some in hospice care with very few or no companions to accompany them on their departure. For these individuals, hospice chaplains fill in the crucial role of companion towards the end of life. Chaplains may also play an essential part in filling in any gap between the patient and the care of hospice caretakers and doctors — ensuring that they leave this world accompanied by a loving and compassionate friend.

How Hospice Chaplains Help Families

The dying process can be emotionally and spiritually difficult for close family and friends. Hospice chaplains also assist those close to hospice patients before, during, and even after the death of a loved one. When needed, family members or companions can consult hospice chaplains long after the death of their loved one to assist them while grieving. For most families, their loved one’s hospice chaplain has a precious place in their hearts for the rest of their lives. 

Meet Our Chaplains

If you or a loved one have any questions about the role of a hospice chaplain, you're welcome to reach out to us. If you're looking for an experienced and compassionate hospice care organization based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we'd love to introduce you to our experienced hospice chaplains.

Reach out to Cura-HPC Hospice & Palliative Care Today