Hospice and Home CareBy Mary Cook
Nov. 1 marked the beginning of National Hospice Month, which is celebrating its 26th anniversary. Hospice & Home Care of Juneau is only a year behind, having served the Juneau community for 25 years. Medical care is only one aspect of this unique organization; HHCJ also offers grief support and community education.
Volunteer coordinator Jean Jasmine has transformed the volunteer training program into a seminar that is free and open to the public. The 2004 fall training and seminar: "Support Issues in Death and Dying," began on Oct. 14 and ended Nov. 4. When asked about the seminar, Jean said, "With hospice care becoming more widespread, allowing more people to die in the comforting environment of their own homes surrounded by their loved ones, more family members, friends and health care professionals are seeking education about end-of-life issues. Our fall training covered the evolution of HHCJ over the last 25 years; personal concepts of death, dying and grief; cultural and spiritual diversity in end-of-life practices; understanding diseases for lay persons; the roles of the doctor, nurses, CNAs, physical, occupational and speech therapists, social workers and volunteers; advance health care directives; mortuary tours; communication skills; the grief process; patient and family psycho-social needs; care for the caregiver; journaling; volunteer opportunities at HHCJ; and caregiver's and patient's stories of what life is like when one is very ill. Due to the high interest in the seminar, it will be repeated in the spring."
On Nov. 17, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., HHCJ social worker, Jamie McLean will present and facilitate "Relief for Caregiver Stress," a panel of local caregivers who will share their personal experiences. This presentation will take place at the Juneau Senior Center at 895 W. 12th St., following the Bridge Adult Day Open House. The event is free.
"Coping With Loss Through the Holidays" will be held on Nov. 23. The event will be sponsored by HHCJ, AARP and the Alaska Memorial Park and Mortuary. Jamie McLean will offer practical ways to cope with the holidays when you are grieving. This will be held at the Mendenhall library from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and is free of charge.
For many of us, the day after Thanksgiving means a trip to the Nugget Mall to begin our holiday shopping. This is also the day HHCJ begins their Light Up A Life campaign, which runs from Nov. 26 to Dec. 23. We hope you will take a minute to look for the star-spangled Christmas tree outside of Susan's Hallmark. For a small donation, you can write the name of a deceased loved one on a white star and hang it on the tree. As simple as it is, this ritual can be very poignant and can offer us a moment of sweet reflection during a busy and stressful season. The sight of that tall, green tree completely covered with stars never fails to move me, and, for me, the best part of volunteering for Light Up a Life is getting to hear the stories people tell as they write the name of their loved one on the star, seeing how each person looks for the perfect spot on the tree and how tenderly they place their star. If you would like to volunteer for this event, please call Jean Jasmine at 463-6134.
Another annual event is the HHCJ Remembrance Gathering, being held on Sunday, Nov. 28 at 3 p.m. at the Juneau Senior Center, 895 W. 12th St. This is a special, candle-lighting ceremony in memory of loved ones who have died. This beautiful gathering will feature a guest speaker, who will share their personal journey through grief, and classical music for reflection. A reception will follow with refreshments provided by HHCJ volunteers.
We began our support group for grieving children and their families last spring, and this program will continue beginning in December and running through April 2005. HHCJ will be offering a group for kids in elementary school and another group for teens. The groups are biweekly, meeting on Monday evenings from 6:30 through 7:30 p.m. at the HHCJ office located at 419 Sixth St. The cost is $20 per month and you must pre-register. To register or for more information, please call Jamie McLean at 463-6109.
As you can see, Hospice & Home Care of Juneau is about much more than just caring for a person's ailing body. We are also committed to providing quality education and compassionate emotional support for the Juneau community. Please call 463-6111 for more information about any of these events.
Mary Cook is a volunteer with Hospice & Home Care of Juneau, a program of Catholic Community Service. CCS serves all persons regardless of their faith.