News and Events

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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Supporting a Bereaved Person through Traumatic Loss

In the wake of a sudden, unexpected or otherwise traumatic loss, effectively supporting a bereaved person can seem difficult or even impossible. People who lose a loved one in such a profoundly tragic way experience grief differently than those whose loved one dies a more natural death. The bereaved person may be dazed, in disbelief or inconsolable.

Depending on your relationship with this person, how involved you feel you can be in supporting them through grief may vary. However, rest assured that despite your connection to the bereaved person, you can help support them through this impossible time.

If the bereaved is an acquaintance

  • Get involved on social media. Post comments or send messages that are simple but show you’re thinking of them. Examples of such messages may include:
    • I am so sorry for your loss.
    • My family and I are thinking of you during this trying time.
    • (Their loved one) was a wonderful person. I was lucky to know them.
  • If the obituary lists a charity, consider making a donation in their loved one’s name. Even a gift as small as $10 or $20 makes an impact to a bereaved person.

If the bereaved is a friend

  • Reach out via text or phone call to check in on the person. Engage them in conversation without pressuring them for details. Following are some talking points:
    • How are you coping right now?
    • Are there any errands that I can run for you to take some pressure off (laundry, shopping, etc.)?
    • Can I bring you some dinner?
    • I know what you’re going through is incredibly difficult. I am here for you.
  • Consider attending the funeral for their loved one. The best way to help your friend is by showing support, even if you weren’t close to the person they lost.
  • Typically, the bereaved person will have a close friend or family member step into a role of caregiving immediately after the loss. Consider coordinating your efforts to help through that caregiver, as they are likely to know what is needed most.
  • Remember that the most difficult things for a bereaved person in the wake of a traumatic loss are often the simple, mundane tasks, such as cleaning, cooking, driving, showering and eating. Find ways to support your friend in establishing a healthy routine while they process their grief.
  • In the wake of a traumatic loss, the bereaved person may not want to be left alone. Consider enlisting other close friends and family in creating a visiting schedule, so that there is the comforting consistency of a familiar, loving presence for your friend.

If you or someone you know has recently suffered a traumatic loss, please contact HPCG’s Counseling and Education Center at 336.621.2500 to learn more about support groups and bereavement counseling.

Jeanine M. Falcon Joins HPCG as Vice President of Human Resources

Jeanine M. Falcon

(GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA)—Jeanine M. Falcon, Ed.S., SHRM-SCP, SPHR, has joined Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) as its vice president of human resources. Previously, Falcon served as the vice president of human resources at Replacements, Ltd.

She has been working as a leadership consultant and coach since 2015. This past April, Falcon was recognized with an Outstanding Women in Business award from Triad Business Journal.

“It is such a privilege to support the profound work of these hospice and palliative care teams,” said Falcon. “I have a passion for the nonprofit arena and hope my experience can complement this valuable and admired community resource.”

Falcon’s involvement in the community is extensive. She currently serves on the board of Triad Health Project as well as the Guilford Green Foundation Advisory Board. She has held previous roles with the City of Greensboro Chamber of Commerce as well as the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ).

“Jeanine is a dynamic human resources executive with a wealth of knowledge in team building, change management, conflict management and strategic decision-making,” said Kristen Yntema, president and CEO of HPCG. “I’m very excited to have her aboard.”

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.

 

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Staying Connected After a Loss

Every loss is different. But whether it’s sudden or expected, peaceful or turbulent, an acquaintance or a close relative, all losses have something in common: there’s always more to say.

For a child or teen, not being able to communicate their thoughts and feelings directly to the person they lost can be frustrating. In addition, depending on the child’s age and their previous experience with death, the idea of someone being “gone” may be frightening or confusing.

Helping a child find ways to remain connected to their loved one can be an invaluable therapeutic tool. The death of a special person does not truly end a child’s relationship with that person, but it can take time to discover a different way to stay connected and build a new relationship.

At Kids Path, we recommend following your child’s lead and respecting their own unique way of grieving.  Following are ways that some families might choose to recognize and celebrate a child’s ongoing connection with someone who has died.

  • Invite your child to participate in creating a photo album or digital collage of special photos. Your child may also request to have a special photo placed in their bedroom where it can be a comfort when falling asleep.
  • Make a book of stories and drawings about happy memories.
  • Create a memory box for special items.
  • Write letters to the person. It’s best for adults to explain honestly that there may not be a physical way to deliver the message to that person, and ask for the child’s suggestions about what should happen to the letters.
  • Help your child start a private journal addressed to the person, where they can write entries to their loved one.
  • Begin a new family ritual, such as lighting a candle at the dinner table that represents the family’s ongoing connection with the person who died. For young children, explain that even though we will blow out the real candle, our love for the person still continues in our hearts.
  • Invite your child to enjoy the loved one’s favorite music or movie together.
  • For upcoming special occasions such as holidays or your special person’s birthday, talk with your child or teen about how they would like to remember the person that day. Some families choose to keep one special aspect of a celebration the same while also adding a new tradition into the mix.
  • Talk with your faith leader about how to answer your child’s spiritual questions.

For guidance in supporting a specific child through grief, contact Kids Path at 336.544.5437.