Preparing a Home for At-Home Hospice or Palliative Care

Posted on Jun 02, 2020

home hospice care

Spending one’s last days at home used to be a prevalent situation. Unfortunately, since the 1960s, hospital ICUs have become the most commonplace for people to spend their final moments. However, with advances in technologies and attitudes, the “luxury” of being able to receive hospice or palliative care at home is once again returning to the mainstream. While this is good news for hospice patients and those closest to them, a proper home hospice setup is a crucial aspect of delivering quality care. 

Determining the Best Course of Action

Before home hospice can take place, the arrangement needs to be approved and reviewed by attending medical professionals. If the patient has intense or unique care needs, home hospice or palliative care may not be possible. Not only will the attending medical professionals need to sign off on a home hospice arrangement, but they will also be integral to developing the best home care plan possible.

Limiting Hazards for Patients & Caregivers Alike

To provide the patient with the most excellent care, caregivers must be given the most optimal workplace possible. Though patient comfort is of the utmost concern with a home hospice or palliative care setup, providing this comfort will be more difficult for caregivers if a home hospice space is unnecessarily cluttered. This means that all unnecessary tripping hazards (rugs, items, etc.) or inhibitive accessories (unnecessary furniture, hanging lights, etc.) must be removed from the care spaces. 

Preparing the Bedroom

The bedroom will be one of the most crucial sections of the house for optimal patient care. As mobility declines, more and more attention will be administered from this space. Because of the limited mobility as well as confined space, a typical hospital bed is recommended. If the bedroom space is not ample enough to accommodate a hospital bed and all of the necessary care equipment, a larger room may be selected as the place where the bed will reside. Some options may include a den, front room, or even a living room.

Bathroom Safety

For the safety and comfort of patients, easy access to the home’s bathroom is crucial. Once in the bathroom, new hazards emerge. Because more slips and falls occur in the bathroom than anywhere else in the house of someone with unique needs, non-slip mats, handrails, heightened toilet seats, and shower chairs must be installed. Any bathroom used by the patient should be able to accommodate all of the medical accessories and needs. 

Keeping Home Cozy

There’s little use in allowing a hospice or palliative care patient access to home care if their home doesn’t feel as such. To keep the home feeling like a home rather than a hospital room in their house, comfort-inducing touches are essential. A patient’s favorite activities should be easily accessible—this includes access to games, books, pictures, keepsakes, television, a computer, telephone, and the like. When possible, their own favorite pillows, blankets, and furniture should be utilized when their need arises. 

Accessible Care Plans

There’s a good chance that multiple caretakers will be tasked with caring for an at-home hospice or palliative care patient. These various caretakers will need to work in sync with one another to provide consistent care. To facilitate this partnership, a care folder or plan should exist within the home in an accessible place. Ideally, this place within the house should be dedicated to managing the patient’s at-home care. The folder in this area should contain documents that outline the patient’s needs, emergency contact information, medication schedules, meal plans, and anything else needed to ensure patient comfort. 

The goal of home hospice and palliative care is not a hospital room disguised as a home, but a home that can still accommodate all of a patient’s medical needs. 

All of this possible from the friendly professionals serving Greater Tulsa, OK at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Understanding & Caring For Children in Grief

Posted on Jun 02, 2020

grieving child

"Children Don't Grieve." 

Even among specialists, there was a past misconception that children do not grieve the death of a grandparent, parent, sibling, relative, or friend. This long-held fallacy was based on the idea that children are not intellectually and emotionally developed enough to fathom a concept like death. This idea has been handed down and created a significant dissonance with the truth—children grieve.

The "D" Word

When a family or friend group experiences a death, there is a tendency to soften the blow for children. This softening may exist in the form of altered language. Parents and caregivers may feel tempted only to use words such as "lost," "passed on," or "gone to heaven" in regards to death with children. Though these are sweet sentiments, using them exclusively can confuse children. They may not understand what "Grandpa passed away" means or "Daddy is in heaven now." Telling a child that "Grandpa died" or "Mommy is sad because Aunt Carol died last night" can help them begin to understand the finality of death and that their loved one is not coming back.

Include Them

Some families will attempt to shield children from death by excluding them from memorial rituals. Some may feel that keeping children away from a funeral or cemetery rituals for a close loved one who has died is protecting them for emotional trauma. While everyone should use their best discretion, including children in these rituals can help them process the finality of this loss. Beginning to understand that this beloved family member or friend is gone and not coming back can help children properly grieve and gain a sense of closure. 

How Kids Show Grief

The death of a loved one is an immensely confusing time for anyone, but even more so for a child. Children may not understand the thoughts and emotions they are beginning to experience—sometimes for the first time. To help children process and understand these emotions, parents and caregivers need to be able to identify the physical signs of grief in children. 

Fear Grins & Laughter

As bizarre as it sounds, upon hearing the news that a loved one has died, some children may smile or even laugh. While seemingly disrespectful, this is often a result of emotional overload. This behavior may also be the child's subconscious wanting to offset negative feelings and want gloomier times to return to normal.

Loss of Sleep or Appetite

One of the main symptoms of grief or mourning in children is a lack of sleep or appetite. Children may begin to ruminate over a variety of ideas and emotions once the activity of the day has settled and the lights are turned off. For this reason, it is a good idea for parents or caregivers to check on children an hour or so after they have been put to bed. During these hours of the night, a grieving child may feel anxious or alone with their thoughts. If a child seems overly tired at the breakfast table or lethargic during the day, this may be the sign of inadequate sleep the night before.

Withdrawing From Activities They Enjoy

Another symptom of grief in children is withdrawing from activities they typically enjoy. In many instances, grieving children may prefer to be alone—even away from friends and loved ones. While their space should be respected during these times, they should also be assured that they are not alone—that a loved one is nearby to talk about anything they have on their minds. 

How to Help a Grieving Child

It's easy to feel powerless to help or understand a grieving child. Children may not be able to express themselves adequately. Despite this difficulty, there are numerous ways you can assist a grieving kid. 

Grieving Isn't an Illness.

Many are tempted to treat grief like a sickness—a problem in need of fixing. In reality, grief is a process to be navigated. While relief from grief sounds nice, it's an integral part of the healing process. When the grieving process is inhibited, this can result in negative mental or emotional consequences down the road. Instead of just trying to get kids to "snap out of it", "pull yourself together," or "be a big girl/boy," it is crucial to allow children to grieve adequately.

Be There

One of the most beneficial things you can do for a grieving child is to listen to them. While you can offer your advice and answer their questions to the best of your ability, they likely feel vulnerable and alone. Listening to them will help them feel heard, taken seriously, and less lonely. Being present can also mean helping them get back to a semblance of normalcy with activities they enjoy. It is important not to push these activities on them, but to offer them as a gentle distraction. 

Involve Them in the Dying Process

If the child's loved one has not yet passed, letting them spend time with the dying individual in hospice care can help them understand what is happening. Not only is this a great way to help children understand the finality of the situation, it can also enhance the life of the hospice patient. Most hospice providers are happy to help facilitate such an arrangement. 

Palliative Care & Hospice Serving the Greater Tulsa, OK Area

If you or a loved one are searching for quality hospice or palliative care services in the Greater Tulsa, OK area, you're invited to meet the caring professionals from Cura HPC

The Role of Therapy Dogs For Hospice Patients

Posted on Mar 24, 2020

Just Try Not to Smile

You’ve likely experienced a moment of joy that comes when man’s best friend suddenly visits you. Whether a dog belongs to a friend or is a joyful pooch with a stranger holding its leash, there seems to be a kind of magic that comes with interacting with a well-behaved dog. Well, oddly enough, it’s not magic—it’s science. In this piece, we’re going to look at the why and how of using therapy dogs to increase hospice patient happiness and health.

Dogs Remove Someone From Their Environment

For many hospice patients, their lives have not been optimal for many months or possibly even many years. They’ve likely undergone many procedures or therapies and spent their fair share of time in a treatment center. While healthcare providers do their best to make patient stays as comfortable as possible, there are few ways to avoid the discomforts of actively receiving treatment for what is likely a failing body. For this reason, a visit from a therapy dog is one of the more welcomed escapes hospice patients can experience. Because one doesn’t ordinarily associate a snuggly furry friend with receiving treatment, the simple presence of a therapy dog allows a hospice patient a reprieve from their anxieties and discomforts. 

Memories of the Past

Reminiscing and sharing positive memories are activities frequently encouraged to families of hospice patients. While going through photo albums or home movies are immensely beneficial ways to increase patient happiness, interacting with a therapy dog can have an astounding ability to help hospice patients recall moments with pets they’ve enjoyed. Memories of beloved pets can be some of the most joyful memories we can remember, and there are few other memory joggers quite like the wagging tail of canine companion. 

The Power of Touch

While a photo album can trigger immense joy and a favorite story can transport someone to the day the events occurred, physical contact has been clinically proven to put us at ease. In studies, patients interacting with therapy animals showed spikes in oxytocin, serotonin, and prolactin—hormones associated with calmness, comfort, and happiness. Whether the connection is the embrace of a friend or the gentle petting of the floppy ears of a golden retriever, this contact with a companion is shown to lower one’s blood pressure and help reduce anxiety.

The Furry Pain Reliever

While most would equate a visit from a friendly therapy dog to increase happiness, these encounters have even been shown to reduce sensations of physical pain. While results may vary, positive encounters with therapy dogs and hospice patients have resulted in pain reductions, lowered blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular conditions. Best of all, these furry pain relievers have no adverse side effects aside from light shedding and the occasional slobber. 

The Benefits of Joyful Expectation

One of the greatest despairs facing hospice patients is the idea of not having many joys in which to look forward. For this reason, visits from therapy dogs provide hospice patients with hopeful expectations even when they’re not around. When a hospice patient is informed that a therapy dog is coming to see them, this news by itself can fill them with joyful anticipation. 

Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa, OK

For those exploring the highest quality hospice and palliative care options in the Greater Tulsa, OK area for themselves or a loved one, you're invited to meet the friendly hospice care professionals from Cura HPC.

Learn more about Cura HPC today. 

Why & How to Donate Your Body to Science

Posted on Mar 24, 2020

Throughout our lives, we serve many functions and purposes. Sibling, friend, teammate, spouse, parent, teacher, manager, counselor, muse—the list goes on. Once we die, outside of memories, our purpose seems to end...but it doesn’t necessarily have to. Yes, we can serve an immensely beneficial purpose once we die through a program called “whole body donation.”

What is Whole Body Donation?

Whole-body donation is the arranged act of donating one’s body “to science” after death. Once someone dies, their bodies are immediately transported from the site of death to the medical school of their choice or following funeral services. Bodies donated to medical schools are used for educational purposes for both medical students as well as experienced doctors for continuing education or surgical training.

Why Should I Consider Whole Body Donation?

No Substitution for a Real Body

Modern technological innovation in the sphere of medical training and research has made incredible strides in the development of educational tools and materials. Though this is the case, there is no educational substitution for a real human body. For aspiring doctors, many consider the body used to help them learn an array of functions to be their first patient. One cadaver can provide incredible insights about the human body that will help a doctor throughout their career. Other bodies donated for continued surgical training for experienced doctors will reduce the number of treatment errors for living patients. The educational input provided by one donated body can save countless lives over the careers of these doctors.

Cost Saving Measure for Final Resting

If losing a loved one wasn’t hard enough, funerals, cremations, and burials are among some of the most expensive services most of us will ever pay for. According to Parting.com, the average North American funeral and burial cost anywhere from $7,000-$10,000. Though medical schools do not pay for bodies donated to their institutions in keeping with Federal law, most will cover the costs associated with laying to rest the donated bodies. Though the remains of most donated bodies are cremated, special arrangements can be made for the remains to be buried. This option may vary depending on the chosen institution.

How to Elect for Whole Body Donation

If you or a loved one are interested in donating your body to science, it is encouraged that you contact the medical school of your choice directly. This recommendation is to eliminate the chances of the improper usage of a donated body by a third-party intermediary service. Medical schools that accept donated bodies strive to make the body donation process as easy as possible for the next of kin. The department responsible for receiving donated bodies can help families make the necessary legal and administrative arrangements that will ensure a stress-free donation process. To further streamline the process and remove complications, arrangements should be made ahead of time as much as possible.

Who is Eligible for Body Donation?

There exists a common misconception that someone who is incredibly old or who experienced a traumatic disease cannot donate their body to science. Though some bodies will be denied from the program, these typically only include rare instances—possible communicable disease, extreme obesity, autopsy, or other reasons a body cannot be used for education purposes. Individual medical institutions set the criteria for donation eligibility.

Will My Body Be Treated With Respect?

Though most medical institutions cannot disclose the specific use of each donated body, they can assure family members that their loved one’s remains are treated with the utmost respect. Despite possible dissections or surgical training sessions, all honor and dignity possible are granted from the moment a body is received until it has adequately served its purpose and is ready for cremation or burial. Students are typically “introduced” to their assigned cadaver as one might meet a study partner. Many institutions have a concluding ceremony to honor those who have donated their bodies. Some students write thank-you letters to the families of those who have given their bodies. The entire process is treated with the highest honor, dignity, and respect.

Whole Body Donation in Oklahoma

If you’re interested in whole-body donation in Oklahoma, here are a few helpful links to help you begin the process.

Willed Body Program - OU Medicine

Body Donor Program - OSU Medical Center

  • Email thom.garrison@okstate.edu or (918) 561-8446

For additional information on quality hospice services serving the Greater Tulsa, OK area, you’re invited to learn about CURA-HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

The Impact of Managing Grief With Regular Exercise

Posted on Feb 20, 2020

woman happy from exercising

While daily life must continue following the death of a loved one, the emotions associated with grief can feel like an immense weight that is impossible to shake. Fortunately, for many experiencing grief and depression, they are discovering an incredibly powerful tool for relief from an unlikely activity—exercise.

“Does the gym attract happy people or are people happy because they go to the gym?”

It sounds counterintuitive—exercising while in grief? Indeed, you'll likely never see someone in a depressed state on the treadmill or swimming laps. If these two activities seem to be at odds, that's because scientifically, they are.

How Exercise Effects Grief

Even though exercise is not a magic bullet to help the grieving completely rebound, the effect it has on one's brain chemistry is undeniable. When one partakes in a particular duration and intensity of exercise, the brain is triggered to release several chemicals, including endorphins. Endorphins are incredible mood-boosting chemicals designed to relieve discomfort. While these endorphins were largely designed to help our ancient ancestors outrun predators, today, they can make us feel physically and emotionally amazing after a great workout.

"Exercise is a very good and positive tool that people can use while grieving, mainly because it triggers that release of neurotransmitters and the release of endorphins," reported Sharon Stallard , a trained bereavement counselor.

"That was it."

At a hulking 6'6", comedian Gary Gulman has been making audiences laugh all over the world for nearly 30 years. Despite inspiring the happiness of millions, Gary had a dark secret he hid for years—he was suffering from deep depression.

For decades, Gary checked into a variety of mental health programs with mixed results. Exercise, however, has been one of his saving graces.

During a podcast episode with fellow comedian Pete Holmes , Gary said that, when he was feeling down, there was one question he would ask himself:

"Have I exercised today? Usually the answer is, 'no, I haven't exercised today.' 'Alright, see how you feel after you exercise.' And at this point, thank God, after I exercise, oh, that was it. ... every time for a couple of years now...and it can be as little as 18 minutes. I've never gone under 18 minutes— it's probably 10. But you don't want to tell me that—the guy who just exercises 10 minutes a day...and he's happy?"

Exercising For Grief Resilience

If you've ever heard the NPR news quiz show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," you've likely heard the unmistakably gruff comedic elbow-jabs of the legendary Paula Poundstone. Suffering from happiness issues of her own, Poundstone researched and wrote a book The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness. Her research consisted of her experimenting with the various age-old happiness avenues and seeing which fostered the greatest results. Experiments varied from test driving sports cars to volunteering with charitable organizations.

During an interview with Parade , Poundstone expounded one of her findings—the impact exercise had on the resilence of her happiness in the face of grief.

Interviewer: "...You write that exercise made you feel more resilient. Again, that's not something we necessarily think of when it comes to being happy..."

Poundstone: "Yeah, it definitely was. I do think it provided a better shield than most things. If some of the things that happened during that stretch (of regular exercise) had happened during the stretch of another (happiness experiment)—like my friend Martha dying...If Martha had died while I was driving a Lamborghini (one of Poundstones' happiness experiments), it would have been a totally different experience...because it's worthless. It comes with too much reflection... It's a can of worms. And push-ups aren't."

How Much Exercise is Necessary?

You may feel that you don't possess the time to exercise enough to experience the intended results. According to a 2017 study by Black Dog Institute , as little as one hour a week of exercise was shown to reduce the intensity of the symptoms of depression. Divided over the course of the week, that's less than 10 minutes a day.

Finding Exercise You Enjoy

For those experiencing grief who would like to give the mood-enhancing effects of exercise a shot, they should know that most forms of physical activity can be considered exercise. Many of us imagine sweating on a treadmill or lifting weights, but exercise can be achieved in other more enjoyable ways. Going for a walk. Dancing. Skipping rope. Swimming at a leisurely pace. To increase the chances of adopting a habit of regular exercise, it is vital to find a form of exercise you actually enjoy and will look forward to performing.

Summary

● Exercise can trigger mood-enhancing endorphins

● As few as 10 minutes a day may be necessary

● Exercise may make you more resilient against grief

● Exercise can take on many enjoyable forms

In addition to enjoying the myriad of benefits of regular exercise, we hope that you will consider regular exercise for helping ease feelings of grief and depression.