If given the choice, most residents of Maquoketa and elsewhere would really prefer not to think about anyone needing hospice care around any holiday for that matter.
However, if someone’s current health condition does require them to receive these services around this time of the year, perspectives often change, and hospice care can be seen as a helpful way to benefit someone in their final days.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice are always happy to talk to families about hospice programs and services that are needed around the end-of-the-year holidays or any other time of the year.
We’ve been working with patients in Eastern Iowa for years so we have heard plenty of questions about how everything works plus general concerns. We’ve also worked with many families and patients who have needed our services. While they hated the idea of losing a family member, they also appreciated being able to spend quality time with them, whether it was the holidays or other times of the year.
Some reasons why hospice can help people include:
- No need for hospitalizations. Hospitals are rarely fun but can be even less fun if you’re a patient or visiting a patient on holidays when people like to get together. Though the staff tries to make the place cheery as possible with decorations and sometimes music, most patients would prefer to be spending time at home. Limited space and hours for visitors, hospital food, noise concerns and interruptions from staff can all make it hard to have a true celebration.
- Traditions. Some families like to do the exact same thing every holiday, including food, drinks or activities. Others aren’t as rigid but still enjoy sprinkling in a few of the same rituals. Or sometimes people get busy and can only include a few highlights. A final holiday with a loved one could be extra emotional but could also be a fun opportunity to pull out all the stops, as long as things don’t get too stressful.
- Visitors. Regardless of what holiday is being celebrated, they all seem to revolve around food and getting together with friends, family or other loved ones. Knowing that it could be a chance to celebrate with a patient receiving hospice care could encourage people to come by, even estranged family members or distant friends who don’t always come by on a regular basis.
- Declare a special occasion. Just about everyone has special food or beverages that they’ve put aside for “special occasions.” A final get-together with a loved one pretty well fits this time to a T. So go ahead and crack that bottle of wine or break into the box of fancy candy that you’ve been saving for the right time. And continue this in the future – consider every day special!
- New memories. Although this year will be special, next year might be difficult when remembering such a relatively recent loss. So family members can look for occasions to treasure a loved one’s memory but incorporate something new into their holiday ritual. Maybe go somewhere different for a meal or destination, invite others, have a certain food or play a special song. This would be a good year to start something new.
Mental and emotional health experts say trying to celebrate holidays “just right” can often be stressful enough, so someone on hospice this year can add even more tension.
But it doesn’t have to be like that – hospice staff encourages families to not push too hard, take things as they come, and enjoy the moments, rather than making sure everything is absolutely perfect.
Another suggestion is to document this particular holiday as much as possible. This means lots of photos and maybe videos.
Though the memories may be painful for a while, these will be fun to watch and look at in the future, and even hand down to the next generation of family members, especially people who may have been too young to remember or weren’t able to attend that particular gathering.
You can even create a scrapbook of the occasion and have everyone who came by share a photo and a memory to be included in it. This could be a wonderful keepsake.
Generally, families are encouraged to be as positive as possible enjoying the moment. But it’s also OK if people want to or need to take breaks to go cry/rest or take some time for themselves.
Asking the patient what he or she wants is a good starting place. If all they want is to enjoy people around, don’t worry so much about all the décor.
Seeking advice from hospice staff is also recommended. Though this experience can be new to you and your family, they’ve dealt with similar situations with other families and will be happy to share recommendations to make the holidays special for everyone, celebrate a loved one, and not be too emotionally overwhelming.