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The Caregiver’s Cairn: November—National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

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Jane Barton

Greetings one and all…

It’s hard to believe that November is upon us. I am reminded that the holidays are just around the corner—as well as the winter season. The snow will soon be flying here in Denver. But before things get too crazy, let’s take a little break and chat for a bit. Grab your favorite beverage. Cozy up in your preferred chair. Breathe deeply. Since November is National Hospice and Palliative Care month, I want to highlight and to honor this life-giving philosophy and model of care.

You may be puzzled or even amazed by my description of hospice and palliative care as a “life-giving” approach to care. But if you understand the fundamental precepts of this model of care, I think you might agree. Palliative care addresses serious, chronic, and terminal illnesses by combining curative and palliative (comfort) interventions. Hospice is a specific type of palliative care reserved for terminally-ill persons diagnosed with less than six months to live. Hospice and palliative care are both administered by a team of interdisciplinary professionals who specialize in medical care, psychosocial support, spiritual companioning, and grief and bereavement counseling. Furthermore, the focus of care includes the patient and the family. Although chronic and terminal illnesses are by definition not curable, a palliative approach to care encourages and enables patients and families to savor the lived experience—every moment. By confronting the reality of our mortality, we are more appreciative of NOW!

Having worked as a hospice chaplain and palliative care educator for many years, I have a special place in my heart for this approach to care. Most recently, I experienced the blessings of hospice care as a family member. My brother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer earlier this year. Thankfully, he opted to conclude his journey with the help of hospice. A blessing for my brother and the entire family.

Because hospice and palliative care have been such a personal and professional blessing for me, I want to extend an invitation to you. If you have a desire to serve your community in a meaning-FULL way, I invite you to become a hospice volunteer. You may not realize that volunteers are treasured team members in hospice. In fact, Medicare (hospice is a Medicare benefit) requires that volunteers participate in providing services related to patient care and/or administrative duties within every hospice in the United States. Consequently, hospice volunteer coordinators are continually seeking committed, compassionate, caring volunteers to serve their patients and families.

In closing, I sincerely hope you will accept the invitation to serve as a hospice volunteer. Working and volunteering in hospice changed my life. Instead of fearing death, I now choose to celebrate life. Rather than worrying about the minutia of daily life, I focus on the meaningful moments. And contrary to our cultural norm, I savor the journey of aging—every moment is a blessing. My enhanced awareness of LIFE is the gift I derived by serving in hospice—a gift I want to share with you. If you are interested, call a hospice in your community and ask to speak to the volunteer coordinator. You will be glad you did…and so will the people you ultimately serve.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at coaarp@aarp.org and we will be in touch soon!

 

Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA is a passionate speaker, writer, and listener. Jane is the founder of Cardinal, LLC, a consulting firm that provides educational programs to assist people in confronting the daunting challenges posed by aging,  serious illness and disability. Jane is well-versed in the areas of grief and bereavement, caregiving, hospice and palliative care, change and transition, and spirituality and health. She presents innovative, transformational programs to community members, healthcare providers, pastoral caregivers, clergy, funeral service providers, and national audiences to improve the experience of people and families challenged by serious, advanced, or terminal illnesses. Previously, Jane served as Director of Education for a hospice and palliative care educational institution. She has also served as a hospice chaplain and bereavement facilitator in hospice and palliative care. Jane is a certified Spiritual Director as well as a Certified Senior Advisor. In a former life, she worked as a financial services representative and an exploration petroleum geologist and manager.

 

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