The guiding principle of hospice is to ensure that a person’s death is as dignified and comfortable as possible, to maintain a patient’s quality of life and avoid unnecessary suffering. The role of hospice is to provide medical care and emotional support for the terminally ill. Hospice caregivers also provide valuable support to patients’ families. Some hospice organizations also provide palliative care for non-hospice patients. Palliative care is relieving symptoms or suffering, without attempting to cure an illness or disease.
Hospice organizations provide medical care via doctors and nurses who help advise and administer medications to ease suffering. They also help patients’ families make arrangements to acquire necessary medical equipment. Social workers are also available to help families and patients with the emotional process. Hospice providers also offer grief counseling, and some offer spiritual guidance. As with Levinson’s Aftercare Resources, hospice organizations are known for their continued support of families after the patient’s death. Some hospice organizations in the Baltimore-area are religious, some are not. Some are for-profit, some are not. All are committed to easing the process of death and dying for the terminally ill and their families.
Hospice services are available in one’s own home, in some hospitals, as well as at dedicated hospice facilities. It is important to know that hospice organizations will evaluate patients several times over the course of someone’s illness to determine their eligibility for hospice care and help advise the family, even before they are actually providing hospice services.
Within the Jewish community, there are some important resources, such as Jewish Community Services’ resources for Aging and Caregiving. Their assistance with Elder Care Management begins with helping families make decisions as their loved ones age, and they can also provide information about important end-of-life resources such as hospice care.
Grief can be an all-encompassing emotion, and Jewish funerals often take place within a relatively short time after a death occurs, meaning the first few days after a loss can go by in a blur. Add to that the possible additional stresses of travel, family interactions, and sometimes a significant amount of time recently spent supporting someone with a lingering illness, and it is no wonder that mourners sometimes suffer serious illness themselves.
Jewish law requires us to take care of ourselves, even at difficult times, and we have put together some reminders that we hope will keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe. If you are helping a friend or extended family during the time of a funeral, please make sure they do the following:
Drink water. Dehydration from crying, or simply not drinking on a normal schedule, can lead to a host of physical ailments even for people who are otherwise healthy. For people with blood pressure, heart or other health problems it can be dangerous.
Remember to eat. If you feel you have little appetite, have small meals or healthy snacks. And don’t over-do it with the caffeine. Grieving, planning and attending a funeral, and sitting shiva can be surprisingly physically taxing. From avoiding headaches to ensuring blood sugar stays level, keeping your body fueled is imperative to staying well.
Try to rest. Emotions can make it hard to sleep and sometimes, after a death, adrenaline kicks in. But the chemicals your body releases when sleep-deprived take a toll. Find ways to pause for a few moments of quiet or down-time. Delegate shiva set-up to someone else. Feel free to define times when you are receiving people, and times which are set aside for quiet family time to eat meals, or take naps. If you have people in your home for shiva and it starts to get overwhelming, you are completely within your rights to excuse yourself for a little while. Nobody will judge you. You are not hosting, you are sitting shiva.
Remember mourning is a process which takes a different amount of time for each person. As you grieve, please keep in mind we have several resources at Levinson’s to help you along the way. From books to lectures to bereavement groups, our Aftercare resources are always available to you.
Our first eNewsletter is out – did you receive it? We expect to send it out a few times a year to inform you of upcoming events, helpful information about mourning and bereavement or changes in funeral practices, as well as information about Levinson’s. We hope this provides valuable resources to our community beyond our funeral services. If you would like to be on the email list to get the newsletter in the future, just click here.
Have you ever talked to your friends or family about death? Do you know what your loved ones’ wishes are for long-term care? Have you told them what your wishes are? What does it mean to decide to send a family member to a nursing home, hospice facility or receive hospice care at home? Is your family prepared in case someone dies suddenly? What are your wishes regarding a funeral, and does your family know what they are?
The separation many of us have from death or those who are dying – due to extended life expectancy and the rise of long-term care facilities – means that this subject is rarely discussed and has almost become taboo. This does a disservice to those who are dying and those who are struggling to cope with the loss or imminent loss of a loved one. Several interesting communities and resources have recently stepped in to fill that gap.
Now you can gather a group of friends or family to discuss “Death Over Dinner“, sending out a resource for people to read in advance and then gathering to talk about your reactions or thoughts. They point out on their homepage that “How we want to die – represents the most important and costly conversation America isn’t having.” Bloomberg recently highlighted these dinners in an article which looks into some participants’ experiences. Or you can attend a “Death Cafe” which gathers people together over cake and coffee (or tea) to share their thoughts and fears about death. Back in March, NPR interviewed the man who started them, and you can read that interview here.
If you have any questions about Jewish funerals or the mourning process, funeral options available, or would like information about resources in the community, please do not hesitate to let us know.
This Sunday, May 5 at 8:30am, tune in to Shalom USA Radio on 1300 AM, WJFK (in Baltimore), to hear one of our lecture speakers, Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, MD, and Jewish Community Services representative Janet Kurland, LCSW-C, discuss the upcoming lecture.
At Sol Levinson & Bros. we believe that our service to the community does not end with the funeral. Since 1998, in memory of Irvin B. Levinson, we’ve hosted an annual lecture series in his honor. Levinson’s, in collaboration with Jewish Community Services, sponsors both national and local experts in the field of death, dying and bereavement. This event is open to the public and provides ongoing support and resources to the community.
This year, the lecture is on Wednesday, May 8 from 6-9:15pm. Please see the flyer for full details, but we are thrilled to have Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D. speaking on the topic “NOTHING WAS THE SAME: GRIEF AND LOSS” and Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt discussing “LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH: LESSONS FOR LIVING”.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.