Last month we discussed the spiritual assessment and subsequent plan of care for each hospice patient. This month we will focus on the support given to those through Quality Hospice Care’s Bereavement Program after the passing of their loved one. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines bereaved as “someone who is suffering the death of a loved one”.  Bereavement is oftentimes used interchangeably with the word grief.  However, grief is the emotions that are often brought on by bereavement or a loss.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) require each hospice agency to have an organized program for the provision of bereavement services. These services are available to the family and other individuals for at least one year after the death of their loved one.

When a person elects to receive hospice care an initial bereavement assessment is completed. This assessment is the baseline to determine the risk for complicated bereavement. The initial plan of care related to bereavement is developed at that time. Bereavement services do not begin at the patient’s death. The service begins with this initial bereavement assessment.  A patient’s care plan is continuously updated as changes occur. These changes aren’t always physical. They may be emotional, social, spiritual, financial, etc. The Interdisciplinary Team (IDT) meets at least every 15 days to review and update the individual’s plan of care to ensure the bereavement services reflect the need of the bereaved.

  • Children at home under age 14 – do they have a support system?
  • Dependence on patient – has the caregiver been self- supporting?
  • Anticipated employment of caregiver – will the family be impacted financially?
  • Perceived/received support – what support system is available?
  • Other people in caregiver’s life – are there close/supportive people available?
  • Significant or major changes or events – how have previous changes/events been handled?
  • Caregiver’s predicted coping – has there been prior experience with illness or death?
  • Perceived relationship with patient – does the relationship appear harmonious with respect?

You may ask, “what can hospice do after my loved one dies?”. That is a valid question. Quality Hospice Care provides phone calls, letters, cards, and referrals to available community and/or online resources. The chaplain and/or social worker are available to make visits if needed. Assistance with long-range planning and decision making starts at admission. Quality Hospice Care’s goal is to facilitate healthy grieving and provide support.

Quality Hospice Care hosts a Memorial Service each year to honor those patients that have passed in our service the prior year. This is a time to re-connect with the families that we have served, share memories and laughter along with an occasional tear.  This is something that the hospice staff looks forward to each year.

In closing, I would like to leave you with this quote from Helen Keller. “What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.