Navigating the Holidays

Embracing Hospice Philosophy in the Face of Loss


The holiday season, a time traditionally associated with joy, warmth, and togetherness, can become a touching reminder of the fact that loved ones are declining, and this may be the last holiday we have with them, or we may feel the empty spaces left behind by the loss of a recent loved one. During such challenging times, the principles of hospice philosophy offer a guiding light, providing solace and support for those grappling with grief.

While some think that admission to hospice care means the patient has just a few days to live, VNA of Care New England hospice patients receive hospice care for an average of three months before passing on.

Hospice care is a collaboration bringing together a team of people with special skills — among them nurses, doctors, spiritual care advisors, social workers, home health aides, and trained volunteers. These team members work together with the person who is dying (terminally ill with less than six months to live), the caregiver, and/or the family to provide the medical, emotional, and spiritual support needed.

President Jimmy Carter, the longest-lived U.S. president, announced in February that after several brief hospital stays, he would forgo further medical intervention and spend the remainder of his life at home in hospice care.

The hospice care teams at the VNA of Care New England are working toward achieving a dignified, pain-free end to terminal illness.

Research shows that pain increases in the last two years of life, often becoming the most intense in the last four months. Uncontrolled pain can lead to other issues including shortness of breath, restlessness, and anxiety. This uncontrolled pain can also prolong the grieving process for loved ones. If you notice an increase in pain or other difficult symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, trouble swallowing, or pressure ulcers that don’t improve with treatment, hospice care may help.

When your loved ones wait to enter hospice care until their final days and weeks of life, they miss out on the full benefit of hospice services. 

The VNA of Care New England Hospice program provides services mostly in private homes, but also in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and hospitals. We provide medical equipment and supplies, symptom management, and spiritual support with a chaplain who meets people where they are, without judgment. We also provide assistance with daily living activities like bathing from a hospice aide, which allows family members to focus on quality time with their loved one.

Our social workers/support counselors provide emotional support and community resource information and referrals. Our trained volunteers help with simple household tasks but mainly provide extensive emotional support through companionship and caregiver respite.

The VNA of Care New England has a comprehensive bereavement counseling (grief support) program to help loved ones process grief through monthly grief support mailings, one-on-one support sessions, and weekly 90-minute grief support group sessions at accessible community locations.
When you think it may be time to start the hospice conversation, be sure you understand the options. Learn as much as you can about end-of-life care options such as hospice so that you can answer questions and offer support to your aging parents or loved one.

The loss of loved ones during the holidays is a poignant experience that many face. Embracing hospice philosophy can serve as a guiding light, offering a framework for understanding, acceptance, and healing. Through open communication, shared experiences, and a supportive community, we can honor the memory of our departed loved ones and find solace during the holiday season. 

Call the VNA of Care New England Hospice today for more information about hospice care at 401-737-6050.

December’s CNE Staying Healthy column was written by Deb Roberts, MD, Medical Director, of Care New England Hospice, and Reverend Burton Bagby-Grose, Hospice Bereavement & Volunteer Coordinator, VNA of Care New England. The article is titled, Navigating the Holidays: Embracing Hospice Philosophy in the Face of Loss.