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Memorial's Hospice Program Helps Families Cope with Loss
Jan. 13, 2009, Linda Wright's mother passed away of congestive heart failure. The following day, she signed her dad up for hospice. Approximately six weeks later, he passed away from the same condition.
"It was all so overwhelming, and I think he just kind of gave up," Linda said. "They had been married 62 years."
A lifelong Springfield resident, Linda remained close to her parents throughout her adult life and continues to struggle with the loss.
"I checked in with them every day," she said. "They were always there for me. To lose them so close together, I felt desperate."
Both of Linda's parents, Robert and Jacqueline Thompson, received care through Memorial Home Services' Hospice program. Linda now falls into a special group referred to by caregivers as "bereaved loved ones."
"Bereavement care refers to the continued support and services we provide to the families after the passing of a loved one," said Tom Westrick, Memorial Health System's administrator of ambulatory services. "It is an integral part of our hospice program."
Through a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals and 40 volunteers, nearly 600 patients and their families receive care every year under Memorial Home Services Hospice. The comprehensive program serves a 14-county region providing medical, spiritual and emotional support in the comfort of home. When a patient passes away, bereavement care is extended to every family.
"We are involved in the healing process as much as the loved ones want us to be," said Bitsy Knepler, Memorial Home Services bereavement volunteer coordinator. "Not everyone is ready at first, so we make sure to provide multiple opportunities for them to connect to our services."
Bereavement care begins with a handwritten sympathy card. In the weeks and months following, loved ones receive telephone calls, home visits and educational mailings about the stages of grief. Families also are invited to attend support group meetings and, if needed, encouraged to work through their emotions with hospice counselors.
Each year, Memorial Home Services Hospice also coordinates memorial services for families that are held in Springfield, Jacksonville and Lincoln.
"Names of those who have passed that year are read aloud," Knepler said. "We also have music, read scripture, and family members are able to set up photos of their loved ones. It's another opportunity for us to assist the bereaved in their healing process."
It is that same assistance and support Linda said helped her move forward with her own healing process.
"When both Mom and Dad passed, hospice came in and took care of everything," she said. "But after that, when the hard part started, and I was faced with all the empty days, they stuck with me."
Linda works two days a week as a medical secretary. She and her husband have one grown son, who lives out of town. The phone calls, educational mailings, home visits and counseling sessions she receives as part of her bereavement care are all things she both welcomes and appreciates. Although she admits each day is still a struggle, she knows with time, things will get easier.
"Just knowing you are on somebody's mind and that what you're still feeling is normal gives me hope," she said. "I tell people that Memorial took care of Mom and Dan, and now they are taking care of me."
Read about bereavement care and support groups available at Memorial by visiting Memorial Home Services website.
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