Did you know? October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to increasing awareness of breast cancer, raising funding for research into the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure of breast cancer, and providing information and support for those with breast cancer or for those who may be at risk for breast cancer. Here are six ways that you can get involved:
Offer support! Consider charities that focus on supporting those with breast cancer. Charities that assist with gas cards, wigs, the payment of treatment, makeup classes, etc. are all excellent ways to support the fight against breast cancer. Or, if you know of someone personally affected by breast cancer, offer to assist them. Something as simple as offering to bring them dinner or to help with their housework can be a big relief during a physically and emotionally demanding time.
Donate to research initiatives. Look for charities that use funding to research a cure for metastatic breast cancer.
Know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. According to Clearview Cancer Institute in Huntsville (www.clearviewcancer.com), any of the following signs and symptoms would warrant a consult with a physician:
- A lump in the breast or underarm area
- An enlargement of pores around the breast or nipple area (often described as an orange peel’s texture)
- Dimpling on the breast
- Unexplained swelling or shrinkage of one of the breasts
- An inverted nipple
- Nipple discharge that is clear or bloody
Complete Breast Cancer Screening. Encourage others to do the same! Unfortunately, many people with early stages of breast cancer do not exhibit symptoms, which makes it critically important for patients to schedule yearly mammograms and to complete regular self-exams. According to cancer.org, the latest guidelines recommend that women should begin having yearly mammograms by age 45 and can begin to have mammograms every other year beginning at age 55. The Centers for Disease Control states that the United States Prevention Services Task Force External (USPSTF) recommends that you speak to your physician about when and how often you should receive a mammogram, as certain risk factors may warrant an earlier exam.
Regularly perform Self Breast Exams. Encourage others to do the same! According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, self-exams should be completed once a month. For a information on how to perform a self-breast exam, visit https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam.
Know the risk factors and share those factors with others! Some factors, such as gender, age, and genetics are beyond your control. But other factors, such as lifestyle and diet, can decrease your risk of breast cancer. Visit https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors for a comprehensive list of risk factors.
The death of a loved one is a hard reality to grasp. Often, it can feel like a bad dream that you just can’t wake up from. Although you may know that your loved one is very sick or in the process of dying, the unavoidability of dying always feels sudden, unforeseen and unbelievable. It’s shocking.
It is important to recognize that shock is a natural part of the grieving process and can occur many times before the loss fully settles in. Although it doesn’t feel normal, it’s your body’s way of handling painful experiences. Given time, the shock will weaken, but you must understand this process is hard, and it takes time to accept death.
Most of all, keep in mind that although the grieving process is difficult and the loss is shocking, there will come a time when you will acknowledge and accept the loss. You will always remember the loved ones you have lost, but you do not need to always grieve their absence.
If you find yourself struggling with the shock and overwhelming grief of losing a loved one, keep these phrases in mind:
- Allow your grief
- Be patient with yourself
- Be willing to change things
Our bereavement services are available to families for up to 13 months following the loss of a loved one. We also host monthly support group sessions at our Abode Hospice & Home Health locations. Support groups offer families and friends a platform to share their experience with others in the community who are facing similar situations. Please contact us for more information about our bereavement services.
Your loved one can no longer do the many tasks they once could. They now depend on you for many of these things. The easiest solution may be to simply take over and make decision, but it’s important to be respectful of your loved ones. As a caregiver, you want to protect your loved one’s dignity and sense of self-worth.
Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine if your independence had slipped away. You can no longer drive, walk, or get out of bed. These once simple tasks now require help from someone else. How would this make you feel? You may feel frustrated. This loss of freedom would most likely cause you to want to keep control over as much as you possibly could.
Here are some helpful suggestions:
- Put yourself in your loved one’s place. How would you want to be treated if you were being cared for?
- Educate yourself on your loved one’s condition. This can prepare you for what’s ahead.
- Help them do what they can on their own for as long as possible. This will give them a sense of control.
- Talk openly and honestly with your loved one. Try to involve them in decisions and be a good listener.
- Be flexible. Try an accommodate reasonable requests if you can.
- Give positive feedback if your loved one does a task on their own.
Grieving for loved ones who are experiencing a life-limiting illness is natural for families and friends. This process can often begin before death occurs. Abode Hospice & Home Health Bereavement Services are available for those who are coping with losing a loved one. Our staff is committed to working closely with families who are working through the grieving process. Our services include:
- One-on-one support
- Print materials
- Supportive phone calls
- In-home support sessions
Our support is available to families for up to 13 months following the loss of a loved one. We also host monthly support group sessions at our Abode Hospice & Home Health locations. Support groups offer families and friends a platform to share their experience with others in the community who are facing similar situations.
Our services don’t stop once your loved one has passed. We are committed to helping families and friends of patients even after they are gone. Please contact us for more information about our Bereavement Services.
A life-limiting illness is an incurable chronic disease or condition that no longer respond to curative treatments.
Examples of a life-limiting illness include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Heart Disease
- Pulmonary Disease
- Liver Disease
- End-stage Renal Disease
A life limiting illness, coupled with symptoms below, could be indicators of decline and hospice eligibility:
- Frequent hospitalizations, ER visits, or visits to the physician within the last six months
- Progressive weight loss (with consideration to weight gain factors such as edema, when applicable)
- Decreasing appetite
- Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
- Increased weakness or fatigue
- Decline in cognitive status or functional abilities
- Increasing assistance needed with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
- Increasing pain or increasing difficulty in controlling pain
- Increasing dyspnea or shortness of breath
- Oxygen dependency
- Reoccurring infections
- Increased nausea and/or vomiting that is difficult to control
- A desire to forgo future hospitalizations
- A request to discontinue treatment
- Recurrent or frequent infections
- Skin breakdown
- A specific decline in condition
If you or a loved one has a life-limiting illness and are experiencing any of the above symptoms, consider speaking to your physician about hospice services. You can also call Abode Hospice & Home Health, and one of our team members can help guide you through the process of requesting hospice through your physician.
“Every person we have an opportunity to serve is unique and precious. Some people just press upon our hearts in such a way that they become unforgettable.
M.B. (patient) was a wonderful husband, father, friend, and an exemplary citizen. He loved serving in our community as a Peace Officer.
His wife, who loved him deeply and cared for him with self abandon stated, “He is a pillar of our family.” M.B. spoke with such pride about his wife and children. How he loved his family and life in general.
He also loved to talk about how much he loves God. “He visited me in this room,” M.B. said. “When I felt lonely, it was very comforting for me to see Him.” “I must have done something good to deserve this,” the patient added.
As I played Estern Orthodox Vespers songs the patient enjoyed listening to, he noticed the image of the Mother of Jesus on my phone that was being shown along with music. Though it was already difficult for him to move his arm, he slowly crossed himself with reverence. His faith was deeply important to him.
On the day he died, his wife and kids embraced and cried together for a long time. “We will be Ok,” she reassured them.
The patient’s wife expressed deep gratitude for all the hospice team members who embraced her husband, her and their kids with care. “I could not have done it without you,” she stated.
What you do matters. It matters more than you may EVER know.
Thank you for your heart that was offered so generously for this precious family and all persons and families you care for.”
Chaplain Rev. Stacy Gadeliya, M.A.
Let yourself grieve. It’s important to let yourself take this roller coaster ride and feel your emotions rather than suppress them. No matter how hard you try to bury those feelings of grief, they will continue to resurface, and you won’t be able to truly move on. Start the healing process by giving into grief.
Lean on friends and family. Your friends and family expect you to be upset. While they may not always know the right things to do or say, they do want to be there for you even if it’s just to listen or offer affection. Never feel too proud or embarrassed to lean on them in this time of need.
Join a support group – online or offline. Whether you find a group through social media or in person, support groups provide ways to talk and listen to others who are in the same position and truly understand what you are going through.
Focus on the positive aspects of your life. The loss you are experiencing could feel like the worst thing that’s ever happened to you and no one can change your mind. Despite this, what you need to do is reflect on all the good aspects that continue to bless your life and are worth pushing through the grief.
Keep yourself busy. Become more involved, go on a trip, try something new – participate in activities you enjoy and that can keep you focused on something other than your grief. Redirect your energy into doing things you’ve always wanted to do but never prioritized.
Breathe. If ever you find the grief to be too overwhelming, take a few deep breaths. The body’s breathing becomes shallow when we are feeling tense or stressed, resulting in insufficient oxygen to the body. This adds to the stress you are already feeling, so focusing on conscious, deeps breaths helps you relax and breathe normally.
Journaling while grieving can help you document and process the feelings of grief you are experiencing. As you begin the healing process and reconnecting with who you once were, you may start thinking about or telling yourself things you would want to record. Putting these thoughts and feelings into words can be very beneficial and help in better working through the grief. This is why it is a great idea to keep a grief journal.
There are many, different ways you can start to fill up your journal. From creative writing and poetry to journaling and writing letters to your deceased loved one, each way provides you with a venue to communicate without fear of being judged. Opening up and disclosing your feelings to others can be difficult, but each of these methods allows you to express what you are feeling in a more personal, therapeutic way.
Research demonstrates that grief journaling after a significant loss has beneficial value. Experts explain that ‘reconstructing your personal self-narrative’ is crucial to the healing process. A grief journal can assist you in recording your experience, recognizing patterns, and establishing growth.
Are you interested in grief journaling but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some writing prompts to get you started:
- Today, I am really missing…
- I feel most connected to my loved one when I…
- If I could talk to you again, I’d tell you…
- My goal for this week…
- I know I’m going to be okay because…
Being able to grant our hospice patients one last wish is always a very heartwarming experience for everyone involved. In this case, having the chance to facilitate a flyover for this WWII fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran, who had been flying for more than 40 years, had everyone involved feeling a little extra thankful for our veterans that day.
The patient’s granddaughter was able to arrange a flyover with a P-51 Mustang plane – the exact plane which he piloted in WWII – over his home. While surrounded by his family and friends, this was a wonderful experience for this true American hero. As his granddaughter expressed, “Thank you all for making this day possible for my grandfather! Our family will be forever thankful for Abode.”
The granddaughter went on to explain that the patient had always enjoyed telling stories to his great-grandson about his flying experiences and how he stopped the ‘bad guys.’ The patient also had a collection of P-51 Mustang planes, as it was his favorite plane model.
As the plane flew over the patient’s home, smiles were had by everyone – especially the guest of honor. With the American flag flying high, cheers, and waving, this was truly an experience deserving of an American hero.
These Life Inspiring Events are just a small part of what Abode does to soar above and beyond for its patients. We strive to provide any sort of joy or comfort available to the patients during their time with hospice.
- Left photo: The photo on the left is of the patient and his family. This photo includes four generations who were all able to experience this event together.
- Middle photo: The middle photo is of the patient with staff members who helped make this event possible.
- Right photo: The photo to the right is of the P-51 Mustang that was flown.
A Recital to Remember
Many people have a passion that they develop and grow to love during their lifetime. For one of our patients, she dedicated many years of her life to performing and teaching students how to play the harp and piano. As a patient with Stage IV lung cancer, she has become increasingly weaker, forcing her to stop teaching her beloved students.
As a result, an Abode employee came up with the idea of having the patient’s students play a private concert for her as a surprise. Using the Broadmoor hotel as the venue, team members were able to coax the patient to come to lunch at the Broadmoor, where she was surprised with her students awaiting. The students played for her for an hour while finishing her afternoon with lunch complimentary of the Broadmoor Golf Club following the event.
Interestingly enough, it was discovered that the patient had played over 100 times at the Broadmoor for weddings and private events over the years, which made the event more special. The Broadmoor team was overly accommodating to help with this event as they have grown to love the patient and her music over the years. Without the help of Abode’s amazing staff and the staff at Broadmoor, this event would not have been possible. As the patient’s son put it,
“What Abode has done is above and beyond. I thought it was incredible the lengths the crew went to make this event possible. I’m absolutely blown away.”
Oftentimes our patients are unable to participate in the tasks they once loved. We strive to make sure they are able to get a taste of these beloved hobbies or interests during their time with us in hospice. This is the perfect example of how we can bring a little bit of that joy back into our patients’ lives.