News and Events

Children, Grief and the Holidays

The holidays are a difficult time for anyone who has experienced a loss. Children, who grow up thinking of the holidays as a magical and happy time, may have particular difficulty reconciling the grief of a recent loss with the joy of the holiday season.

Depending on the child’s relationship with their loved one who has died, this year might mean a change in holiday traditions or special rituals. Maybe Grandma let them help make the pumpkin pie, or their Aunt read them The Night before Christmas.

Below are some suggestions for how to comfort and support grieving children during the holidays.

In the classroom

If you know that a student has recently experienced the death of a loved one, make time to speak with them about their feelings regarding the upcoming holiday season. In addition, speaking with the child’s parents or guardians to find out what, if anything might be upsetting for them during holiday activities empowers you to make accommodations if necessary.  For example, if you were planning to have your class draw a picture of their favorite holiday tradition, but you know that this will be painful for the grieving child, you could have the class draw a picture of their favorite winter activity instead. This kind of simple, sensitive adjustment can help a grieving child better cope with a difficult time.

At home

Make time to sit down as a family and talk through your plans for the holiday season. Make sure that your child’s feelings are heard and that you take their wishes into consideration when making decisions.  Remember that it’s ok to change or leave out a tradition to make this difficult time less emotionally taxing. If certain foods or rituals are too painful for your family, consider skipping them this year. You can always choose to revisit them in the future if you wish.

It can also be helpful for children to create a new tradition together to honor the person who has died. For example, your family might hang a stocking for that person and fill it with special messages and happy memories, or light a candle at a shared meal to represent the legacy of that person.

Talk with a Kids Path Counselor

Children’s counselors at Kids Path are available to consult with anyone in the community about supporting a grieving child during the holidays. You can talk with a licensed counselor by phone during weekday business hours by calling Kids Path at 336.544.5437 and asking to speak with a counselor.

This Veteran’s Day

Jose Narosky is quoted as saying, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”

Many veterans we care for at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) come to us with complex feelings about their military experience. No longer battling for their country, they instead are battling serious illness. It is our role as trained hospice workers to guide them through this journey respectfully and compassionately, while recognizing the individual medical and psychosocial needs that can arise at the end of life.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), more than 1,800 American veterans die every day. Last year at HPCG, 333 of our patients were veterans, representing 20.5 percent of our total patients served.

If, as Narosky says, “there are no unwounded soldiers,” then we at HPCG believe it is imperative to open our hearts to the many veterans who wish to share their stories at the end of life. These are stories often filled with mixed emotions: sacrifice, pride, pain, suffering, grief and loss.

As a national We Honor Veteran’s partner, our hospice teams are trained to understand that many veterans never wish to appear weak or admit pain, even in the midst of great suffering. We pair veteran volunteers with our veteran patients, because they often know best how to support a fellow service member in the way they desire.

This Veterans Day, we join with our community to honor the men and women who served us. This day and every day, I encourage each of us—whether we are trained professionals or not—to open our hearts in understanding to the stories of veterans among us.

And if you are a veteran who is interested in becoming one of our Vet-to-Vet volunteers, please call 336.621.2500.

 

 

 

Kristen Yntema
President and CEO of Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro

 

The Rev. Lou Wallace Receives 2018 Peter Keese Leadership Award

The Rev. Lou Wallace

(GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA)—The Reverend Lou Wallace, a well-known grief counselor, received the 2018 Peter Keese Leadership Award on September 5, 2018. Wallace is credited with establishing North Carolina’s first community-based hospice bereavement program at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG).

Presented by The Carolinas Center (TCC), this annual award recognizes a North Carolina leader in end-of-life care.

“Lou is a true pioneer in the field of bereavement counseling,” said Marcia Vanard, HPCG’s vice president of counseling and education. “She believed that hospice bereavement services should be available to everyone, not just those families served by hospice, and that has led to tremendous healing in our community.”

During a career that spanned more than 29 years, Wallace served HPCG in a variety of roles, including chaplain, bereavement counselor and director of its grief counseling center. In 1989, she garnered attention when she opened the grief counseling center to anyone who had experienced the death of a loved one. She was also instrumental in establishing HPCG’s Kids Path program, which supports children coping with serious illness and loss.

While no longer working full-time, Wallace continues to facilitate HPCG’s “Loss of Spouse” support groups throughout the year.

Wallace is no stranger to personal loss, having experienced the deaths of her youngest son and only daughter. While she seldom disclosed her own story, Wallace reflected that her own losses enriched her ability to connect with clients in the depths of their pain. Because of this connection, she was often assigned the most difficult or traumatic losses.

One such client was Rebecca Schlosser, who was counseled by Wallace after her 25-year-old son, David, unexpectedly died following a lengthy struggle with bipolar disorder.

“Lou Wallace became my guide, listening and helping me understand that my responses to David’s death were normal. At a time when it felt like my reason for ‘being’ was over, Lou helped me find my footing,” she said.

Wallace reflected: “Through my years as a grief counselor and chaplain, I have had the privilege of serving people as they find new meaning, constructing new lives. People say ‘I admire you for doing that work. It must be depressing.’ It’s not! It’s affirming, loving care.”

About HPCG

HPCG is a nonprofit organization that serves an average of 350 patients per day in Guilford County and surrounding areas. It is situated on a 14.75 acre campus at 2500 Summit Avenue. Since 1980, HPCG has been providing physical, emotional and spiritual support for children and adults faced with a life-limiting illness, as well as their caregivers and families. For more information, call 336.621.2500 or visit www.hospicegso.org.

 

About the Peter Keese Leadership Award

The award is presented annually by The Carolinas Center (TCC), which is a trade organization promoting quality end-of-life care and representing an extensive number of hospice and palliative care providers in North and South Carolina.

The Peter Keese Leadership Award is presented to a North Carolina individual who has:

  • Been affiliated with a North Carolina hospice or palliative care provider or end-of-life care coalition that is a member of TCC.
  • Devoted significant time to promoting hospice care.
  • Provided vision and innovation in an approach to end-of-life care.
  • Involved in fostering relationships with strategic partners.
  • Involved in hospice care throughout North Carolina.

 

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Click here to download high-resolution head shot. 

Hospice Care: Dealing with Family Conflict

When a loved one has a serious illness, it is natural for family to gather to spend time together and provide support.

Family dynamics are complex and unique. However, the potential for conflict multiplies under the stress of a dying family member. Below is some advice for sample situations when conflict between families is common.

Entering Hospice Care

When a person is terminally ill, family members often disagree about the best medical course of action. Some family members might be against hospice care and see it as “giving up.” This belief is often compounded by the grief of coming to terms with the fact that their loved one is dying.

If a family member is against your loved one entering hospice care, explain to them why the decision is being made. Regardless of the circumstances, the decision to enter hospice care almost always comes down to quality of life. Explain to your family member that hospice will help your loved one be more comfortable by providing relief from pain and discomfort.

If your family member is still upset, it may be helpful to have them meet with someone from your loved one’s hospice team. Oftentimes, anger and frustration arise from a lack of understanding. There are many myths surrounding hospice and palliative care, and hospice professionals are well-equipped to both dispel those myths and explain the benefits of hospice care.

Caring for Your Loved One

Regardless of whether your loved one is unable to make their own health care decisions, disagreements about the right types of comfort care are common between family members. For example, whether to continue providing food and what types of pain medications to use (if any) are two common areas of conflict.

These decisions rest with either the patient or, if they are not able to make their own health care decisions, their designated health care power of attorney. Still, others are likely to have an opinion regarding the best course of action. At times, the primary decision-maker may want input from others, and at other times, he or she may need to set a boundary, by saying ‘This is not open for discussion.”

If a family member is contentious about a particular decision, it is best to speak with them privately. Calmly explain that while you understand their position, the decision is final. Explain that everyone wants what’s best for your loved one, and that this decision has been determined to be the best course of action. If you feel uncomfortable confronting your family member, or if they have questions that you can’t answer, reach out to your hospice social worker, chaplain, nurse or doctor.

If you have questions about hospice care, or if you or your loved one is struggling with a serious illness, call the HPCG Referral Center at 336.621.7575

Grief at School: How to Support a Grieving Child in the Classroom

By late October, most elementary school children will have settled into the new school year. If a particular child seems to have difficulty acclimating to classroom routines, an often overlooked possibility is the impact of grief due to death or serious illness. At times, school staff may not even know what has happened at home unless the student volunteers this information.

As a teacher or school counselor, you may feel unsure about how to respond if you have not had experience with students coping with bereavement or illness. Following are some guidelines for supporting a child who has recently experienced loss.

Offer chances to take a break.

A grieving student may feel overwhelmed or anxious in the classroom. When you suspect a child is having difficulty concentrating due to a loss, you can find a private moment to speak with them and come up with a plan. Give permission to step out of the classroom for a break, whether that’s to go to the restroom, spend a few quiet minutes in the media center or visit the school counselor.

Provide a listening ear.

Other people in the child’s life may make misguided statements about loss that invalidate grief feelings, such as “You need to be strong for your family.” In contrast, you can provide nonjudgmental support by asking open-ended questions and listening more than talking. Some helpful things to say to a grieving student include:

  • “I heard that a special person in your life has died (or is very sick). It’s okay to talk to me about it whenever you’re having a hard day.”
  • “Some kids might be feeling really sad or angry in this situation. What has it been like for you?”
  • “Is there anything you’re worried about right now?”

Don’t be overly concerned with getting the words exactly right. The most important thing is a calm and caring tone that shows the student you care.

Keep in mind that some kids may not want to talk about the loss at that moment—and some may never want to talk about it. Follow the child’s lead when making the offer of a listening ear, and let the student know that choosing not to talk is also valid. Your offer of support will feel meaningful even to students who opt not to share details with you.

Understand that children demonstrate grief in varied ways.

Children don’t always express grief feelings through crying or sadness. Elementary age students may display other changes in behavior or mood, such as irritability, angry outbursts, distraction, anxiety or unusual sensitivity. Kids may also have difficulty articulating their emotions.

Ask a Children’s Counselor.

The licensed counselors at Kids Path offer free phone consultations to any adult in the community, including school personnel and parents or caregivers. To ask about ways to support your student in coping with death or serious illness, call 336.544.5437 and ask to speak with a Kids Path counselor.

Caregiving and Back Injuries: Prevention is Key

In a job where being able to move freely is essential, back injuries can be career-ending. By definition, caregiving requires assisting others in the activities of daily living when they can no longer be self-sufficient. For patients who have limited mobility, caregivers can be required to move 50 or more pounds of body weight multiple times per day.

For trained caregiving professionals, proper lifting techniques are often common knowledge. However, if you are a first-time caregiver looking after a relative or spouse, you may be unaware of methods to help you properly assist, lift and move your loved one.

Back injuries are the most common physical problem seen in caregivers. Unfortunately, even one back injury can render a caregiver permanently unable to provide assistance.

If you are caregiving for a loved one, preventing back injuries should be a top priority.

Below are some techniques to help you avoid injuring your back when caregiving.

  1. Exercise

Strengthening your muscles will take load and strain off of your back. Consider starting a simple strength training and stretching routine. Focus on building strength in your abdominal muscles and glutes. For a sample back injury prevention routine, click here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/multimedia/back-pain/sls-20076265

  1. Use proper lifting techniques

Some general guidelines to follow when you lift or move a person include:

  • Keep your head and neck in proper alignment with your spine.
  • Maintain the natural curve of your spine; do not bend at your waist.
  • Avoid twisting your body when carrying a person.
  • Always keep the person who is being moved close to your body.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart to maintain your balance.
  • Use the muscles in your legs to lift and/or pull.

For more information on lifting techniques for home caregivers, click here: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/lifting-techniques-for-home-caregivers

  1. Get help when needed

If lifting your loved one is too difficult due to uncooperativeness, heaviness or awkward positioning, seek help. If your loved one is currently receiving palliative or hospice care, ask your caregiving team for advice and assistance.

If you find that you are often unable to lift your loved one independently, consider purchasing a patient lift. Medicare will often pay for patient lifts if they are deemed medically necessary and prescribed by a doctor. Learn more about Medicare coverage for patient lifts here: https://medicare.com/coverage/does-medicare-cover-patient-lifts/

 

If your loved one is struggling with a serious illness, Hospice and Palliative of Greensboro can help. Call 336.621.7575 for more information. 

Helping Kids Talk About “Big Feelings”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing a loved one or coping with serious illness can be stressful for children, particularly those too young to effectively express emotions using words. Children may feel confused about experiencing multiple emotions at once, such as sadness and anger, or may have difficulty understanding that a bodily sensation can be an indicator of an emotion (such as restlessness caused by anxiety).

Most children also have limited experience with loss or tragic events, which further complicates their ability to process emotions. “Big feelings” are the powerful, confusing or overwhelming emotions that accompany these upsetting times.

Following are some simple, yet effective approaches to encourage your child to communicate about difficult emotions:

  • Initiate the conversation at a quiet, private time. Your child may be more likely to talk about difficult feelings if you approach them in private at a more relaxed time when you can talk one on one, such as at bedtime or when you are in the car together.
  • Model openness and vulnerability by speaking briefly about your own feelings. For example, “I noticed that ever since Grandma has been sick, I have been feeling sad and upset sometimes, and talking about it has helped me feel better. I wonder if you have been having big feelings, too.”
  • Say what you’re seeing, then check in. “It seems like you aren’t playing as much, and you don’t feel like eating dinner sometimes. Does it seem that way to you, too?”
  • Practice being fully present with your child. Begin by telling your child that you will listen to them without interrupting. Follow through by providing your full attention, showing your child with your eyes and body language that you are hearing them.
  • Let your child know that you are available to help, but without focusing on “fixing” the problem. We all have big feelings sometimes, especially in difficult situations related to loss or illness. Sometimes children respond positively if you offer to brainstorm together about ways to make the difficult situation feel a little easier. Other times, you may find that your child simply wants to be together and have their emotions acknowledged.

Some children may not want to open up verbally, and that’s okay; some children are more likely to demonstrate their emotions through behavior, expressive arts or other nonverbal ways to communicate.

Call Kids Path for a free phone consultation.

The licensed counselors at Kids Path are available by phone during business hours to talk with parents, caregivers, teachers or anyone in the community about how to best support a grieving child through loss or illness. Simply call 336. 544.5437 and ask to speak with a counselor.

Coping with a Terminal Diagnosis

“The opposite of hope is despair, and when we despair, it is because we feel there are no choices.”

Warren G. Bennis

Death is a part of life, but that doesn’t make it any less devastating to learn that you or your loved one’s illness is terminal. As you navigate this difficult time, know that terminal illness doesn’t have the power to take away the joy of living, you are not alone in your feelings and there is always hope to create joy and beauty in whatever time is left.

Receiving a terminal diagnosis

Depending on the circumstances of you or your loved one’s illness, you may have been prepared for a terminal diagnosis. If you were previously unaware of the illness’ severity (or even its existence), receiving this news may come as a complete shock.

How you process this difficult news is highly personal, but rest assured that whatever your reactions, they are entirely normal. Following are some of the feelings that you or your loved ones may experience in the wake of a terminal diagnosis:

  • shock
  • fear
  • anger
  • resentment
  • denial
  • helplessness
  • sadness
  • frustration
  • relief
  • acceptance

Any and all of these feelings are expected reactions to learning that you or your loved one is dying. News of a terminal illness may leave you feeling like you are utterly without hope. But whether you have days, weeks, months or years left, there is still time to bask in the joy and love that life has to offer. When time is limited, the quality of that time still holds immense potential.

Empowering yourself with information and resources

Once the initial shock of the diagnosis has somewhat subsided, you can empower yourself by gathering information and identifying resources to plan ahead. Your doctor can offer you information about the symptoms you are likely to expect as your illness progresses.

Following are some additional resources that may help:

Understanding palliative and hospice care

The purpose of both hospice and palliative care is to refocus on living. As your condition progresses, these services can help improve quality of life. Following are ways that palliative and hospice care can help dying patients enjoy the time they have left:

  • Comfort care and pain management.
  • Alternative therapies (horticultural, music and pet therapy).
  • Pastoral care and spiritual support.
  • Social work and counseling.
  • Symptom management.
  • Help with anxiety and restlessness.
  • Ability to stay at home (or in a long-term care or hospice facility).
  • Minimize (or even eliminate) stays at the hospital.
  • More time with family and friends.
  • Counseling and support for loved ones.

For a comprehensive directory of end-of-life resources, visit https://www.nhpco.org/resources/end-life-care–resources.

If you would like more information about palliative care, hospice care or counseling services, please contact Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro at 336.621.2500.

Additional resources:
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/end-of-life-care/coping-with-a-terminal-illness/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/grief/art-20047491

Should My Child Attend the Funeral?

Kids Path counselors are often asked, “Is it a good idea for my child to attend our loved one’s funeral or memorial service?” Our response to this question varies because each situation and child is unique; however, a few specific factors are helpful to consider.

Consider Your Child’s Age and Maturity Level

Toddlers, preschoolers and other young children may find a memorial event to be confusing or distressing, especially if they don’t understand what happened to their loved one.  They may be highly sensitive to the intense emotions present in the room. Alternatively, they may seem insensitive to the gravity of the occasion and behave in a way that is seen as inappropriate to onlookers.  When making your decision, consider how attending the event will affect them as well as whether their behavior may be disruptive to others.

Give Your Child a Choice

When possible, give children choices about their involvement in the memorial event. Help your child understand what to expect, including details about what they are likely to see and hear. Explain that some people may be sad or crying at the event, and validate that either crying or not crying is okay. Let your child know that you will have special time together after the event, whether that means going out for ice cream or simply making time to talk about how they are feeling.

By providing detailed expectations of the event beforehand, you are empowering your child to make an informed decision about whether or not to participate. Whatever they decide, be sure to communicate your support and understanding.

Talk about Saying Goodbye

Some older children or teens who attend the event may want to speak or read something special as part of the service, but for others, this may be uncomfortable. Younger children can be given limited options for participation. For example, some families let children attend the memorial gathering but not the viewing or graveside service.

If your child chooses not to attend, brainstorm together about other ways to participate. Some children draw pictures or write letters for an adult to bring to the memorial service or burial.  Other children may find comfort in creating a separate ritual at home as a way of saying goodbye.

Make a Backup Plan

Due to the unpredictable and emotional nature of funerals and memorials, it is important to have a backup plan for attending the event. For younger children, it’s ideal to have an adult assigned to that child who can step outside with them if needed. With older children or teens, talk with them about their options if they need to leave early or take a break.

Kids Path Can Help You Support Your Grieving Child

Our licensed Kids Path counselors are available Monday through Friday to consult with parents or caregivers about the best ways to support a child coping with death or severe illness.

Call 336.544.5437 to speak with a Kids Path counselor.

 

 

 

HPCG and Greensboro Public Library Launch Community Read of “The Bright Hour”

(GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA)–The Greensboro Public Library and Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) have teamed up to launch a Community Read of “The Bright Hour,” the bestselling memoir by local writer, Nina Riggs.

To kick off the Community Read, they will hold the event “Reflections on ‘The Bright Hour’: A Conversation with John Duberstein” on Tuesday, August 28 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the library’s central branch at 219 N. Church Street.

John Duberstein, widower of the author and a local attorney, will share his candid reflections on the book—as well as his experiences with love, loss and renewal.

Participants at the event can also learn more about reserving a free book set of “The Bright Hour” for their book club, faith community, long-term care community and other group. Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro can provide trained facilitators to lead group discussions on the book as well as end-of-life issues.

Riggs’ memoir takes place largely in Greensboro, NC during her final years as she faced breast cancer. It was published posthumously in 2017 to critical acclaim and commercial success. She was just 37 years old when initially diagnosed with “one small spot.” Within a year, the mother of two young sons and a wife of 16 years, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

Nina Riggs

“We encourage book clubs and civic organizations to add this book to their reading list this fall,” said Beth Sheffield, adult programming coordinator for the Greensboro Public Library. “’The Bright Hour’ is a book about living and loving as much as it is about dying.”

For more information about this event or the Community Read, contact Tammy Chaput at 336.621.5565 or thecenter@hospicegso.org  

About HPCG

HPCG, a nonprofit organization serving Guilford County and surrounding areas since 1980, is situated on a 14.75 acre campus at 2500 Summit Avenue. HPCG provides physical, emotional and spiritual support for children and adults faced with a life-limiting illness, as well as their caregivers and families. For more information, call 336.621.2500 or visit www.hospicegso.org.

 

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