Tips and ideas for angeling an end-stage buddy Pt 1
It is a rare privilege to Angel someone who is dying… you have the opportunity to add cheer and friendship to their last days on earth.
* The most important factor when Angeling a terminal patient is CONSISTENCY! People with terminal illnesses are often abandoned by friends and family, leaving them lonely and depressed. Your continuing presence in the patient’s life is more important than what you send.
* Angels should never broach the subject of a patients stage four prognosis. This is best left to the patients family, friends and clergy. Our "job" is strictly to send cheer and encouragement through the mail.
* What do you say in your cards and letters? Tell your patient how much he/she means to you. Reminisce about fun times/good vacations/memorable moments you’ve had in your life. Share the small events of your day. Avoid sending a generic greeting card unless you’ve personalized it with a heartfelt message, and NEVER send get-well-soon cards.
* What should you NOT say? "I understand how you feel." " It is God's will." "Its for the best." " Don't talk like that (about death or about dying)." " Be strong." " You can't die."
* As an occasional alternative to a card or note, consider sending video or audio taped “notes” to your patient.
* Help them celebrate holidays (and life) by sending decorations for their hospital room or home, or by sending flowers or a plant.
* Send gift certificates for dvd rentals, Amazon.com, or a restaurant in their town who delivers.
* Be creative. Send taped music, a poster for the wall, cookies for your patient to share with family and friends.
* What's in the news? Magazines, photos, newspapers, and current event reports keep patients from feeling the world is passing them by.
* Supply a journal for your patient to keep.
* Send a blanket, quilt, toy or stuffed animal to have at beside.
* Do not forget your patients family/caregivers. Every now and then include a card or gift for them, as well.
* Read helpful tips and ideas from other volunteers regarding how to Angel an end stage or hospice patient, below:
I would suggest sending CDs or tapes of soothing music (harp, piano, maybe Christian music if your buddy is Christian). The sense of hearing, so they say, is the last to leave. The music would be comforting to your buddy's caregivers as well.
I would still keep my correspondence the same. Our buddies usually love hearing about the normalcy of our lives. As far as items to send, comforting music cds are nice. We played my mom's favorite music when she was in her last weeks. Also, lap blankets, comfy pillows, window clings, stuffed animal to cuddle, candy for visitors or your buddy.
Keep writing! Describe a beautiful sunset to her, or a flower in your garden. Go into detail, she probably doesn't get out much and may miss everyday things like the sounds of children playing in the neighborhood or in a pool; a dog barking down the street; the peaceful sound of a breeze as it sighs through the trees. There is so much beauty in the world, describe it. If you can't find the words, there are plenty of beautiful poems and stories by others that you could share.
If she likes humor, don't stop now! She wants to feel normal, just keep doing what you've been doing. I'm sure she is glad to have someone "out there" who cares about her.
I do private home care for the terminally ill and I can tell you that lavender scented anything has a great calming effect. Particularly lotions. My bag consists of lavender lotions & different scented candles, many relaxation cd's, a cd player, a table lamp with a very soft light (one that will hold a very small bulb- I have one that will hold one of those large Christmas bulbs) and bunches of those mouth swabs that you can moisten with water. For food, pudding and jello seem to be the very favorite. They don' have to chew and seem to really like the way it feels in their mouths. The best thing to remember is that near the end, the lights are very harsh and bright, sounds are louder, and not much tastes good to the patient.
We had hospice in my home for 10 days before my husband died. I'm sure that it is different for each buddy but what I do know is that he was still with us mentally until the day he died and then he was alert and talking 20 minutes before he died. I would suggest that you continue sending just as you always have although the patient no longer has much need for material possessions. My husband got cards daily and though he could not hold them or read them - he enjoyed having them read to him and it meant alot to us as family taking care of him to be able to let him know how much people loved him. He liked FUNNY ones too not just serious. He did enjoy his favorite gospel CD's playing.
I was with Hospice for many years and I would say that for you to continue to send cards, letters or small gifts as you always did as Chemo Angel would be the best thing. Small lap blankets, a radio (inexpensive ones in Pharmacies, for example) socks, cap as their circulation fails, they get colder - slippers if they can walk at all, a shawl or scarf (for the men) for their shoulders for drafts, lollipops if
they can hold them....their mouths get dry..
I was a hospice volunteer for almost 4 years. You cannot take away or even lessen the pain of 'impending loss' or 'loss'. The only thing you can do is bring a momentary smile or tear to the patient and family. I have found the best thing I have done is sit and put together a simple book of inspirationals that I pull from off this 'ole' internet. There are tons out there...poems, stories, pictures, etc. even music you can record. Prepare the book initially with a few and then keep adding each week, etc. This is inexpensive. I use 50 cent folders with sleeves to protect the pages. You can insert beautiful pictures, calling cards with scripture verses,etc. They are great for the family to sit and read to the patient. Harp music...if you can afford a CD...are great for relaxation.
My main suggestion is... 'NOTHING LEFT UNSAID'... a small book that any family who faces death should have. It helps with stories, poems, prayers....but most of all helps the patient and family walk through 'all the things they want to say but don't know how'. It's $15.95 unless you catch it on sale. You can find it at Amazon.com. This book is simple and fits any religion or no religion....Any stage of illness and often helps to rid any guilt feelings, those involved are guided into sharing their innermost thoughts....including saying 'Goodbyes'.
For people in hospice care I thought of something my kids have done often in school for our pastor and others on special occasions or when someone took ill. They make a Spiritual Bouquet. You make flowers (out of construction paper or whatever is easiest for you, sometimes they just trace a flower on white paper and color it in- be as creative as wish) and on each flower write down your prayer and promise to say that prayer for her on each given day. If your buddy is not religious, secularize the idea by using uplifting quotes instead. Then arrange the flowers in a bouquet, decorate with ribbon and mail it to her. You can send them as a bouquet at the beginning of the week or send one flower each day and let her loved one arrange it as bouquet in her room.
I've worked with hospice for a few years now, and an amazing gift provided by the hospice was the gift of harp music or anything that may be relaxing. So I would recommend a CD of some nice music. The hospice nurses say that even though they may not appear awake- often the patient can both hear and feel. Also, I would recommend some nice lotion in a familiar smell. My current hospice lady loves lavender, so we rub her hands and legs gently. I am sure what ever you provide will be healing. Just knowing people care so much is a precious gift.
Maybe you could send a guest book for his visitors, family and friends to sign, and write a thought or story about him. Your buddy's family and friends would have a lovely book of memories.
My dad really enjoyed a birdfeeder we put up outside his window during his last months. Our family appreciated food gift certificates, because no one wanted to cook, we just wanted to spend time with my dad.
I would send pretty cards daily and let her know that you are praying for her & that she is in your thoughts often.
If you are able, send a note, card, or letter on a daily basis, that way you are connecting with her each and every day offering her strength and your thoughts.
If your buddy has requested no gifts and is a spiritual person, why not send your prayers as gifts. Write them down and mail one to her several times a week. Write out inspirational passages from her religion's holy book and send them to her.
Having been through the hospice experience with my parents, both of whom I've lost to cancer, I can say that at a time like this, your prayers for her strength and comfort will mean more to her than anything. Let her know as often as possible that you are praying for her. Perhaps write down prayers from your heart and send them to her. Comforting poems might also be a nice thing to include with your good thoughts and prayers. Keep telling her about your days...even if they seem boring to you, they will seem like an adventure to someone who is no longer able to get out and about. All of these things will ease her pain and bring joy to her heart.
Keep sending those cards because I would sit and read my friend the letters and the cards that came for her and sit and show her the gifts, and she would smile. When she was too sick to smile I would still read those letters and show her those gifts and I would take comfort in someone caring so much for her. Those cards and caring thoughts helped me so much as a caregiver! You would be surprised how hearing about your daily events just takes someone away for a moment to remember there is life other than cancer...
My grandpa died at home with hospice. If you send cards, the family or nurses can read them to him. It may make him feel peaceful just to know the cards are rolling in. It did wonders for my grandpa, but also helped my grandma.
Send stuff like relaxation tapes/CDs if you know that someone will play music for him. I even have a sound machine type thing, where you can play all different sounds like an ocean, city noises, birds singing, etc. Or just really neat things for him to read if he is able, or if not, for people to read to him.
Although your patient has entered hospice, nothing has really changed in your angeling. It is true that your patient is getting sicker, and you may want to consider that with the gifts your send. But, in general, all the things that your angel enjoyed before, will probably be the same things that bring a smile now.
When my mother-in-law went under hospice care in the home, two things she loved and others always commented on.
**One was her pillowcases - if you sew there are so many pretty prints out there and inexpensive too. I do machine embroiderery and it looks great on the pillowcases.
**Also nightgowns. I found nightgowns at Walmart. I would bring them home and cut them down the back. I finished the edges where I cut then added ribbon to the top so we could tie it for her. No one knew the difference and the hospice nurses loved the idea.
I lost my husband to cancer, so here are some ideas that made a difference to not only him, but to me and our family:
* very restful, relaxing beautiful music - I had a Yanni cd playing the day my husband died and the hospice nurse said the music was so beautiful and so perfect. I still have that cd.
* candles...no scent, as perfume smells may make them sick...but something pretty in a little light-diffusing candle holder.
* Satin pillow case
* a soft, soft hand towel or wash cloth...buy as expensive as you can afford... watch for sales...
* soothing lotions...lavender, vanilla, or unscented... don't forget that their skin gets so dry.
* lip balms
* a soft throw...hand made or bought...soft colors.. Maize, shades of blue...
* If you know that the patient loves a particular animal, a soft stuffed animal is always nice. Nice for the patient, as well as for the family.
* a journal for people to write in when they are in waiting rooms...this works for some people, while others are not interested in this at all.
Your gifts are not just important to your patient, but will be comforting to the family, also. I know that friends and family sent cards when my husband was too sick to care, but I cared and I was so touched. I would put those cards up in his room...he may or may not have known, but I knew and found such comfort.