“You made it possible for our family to stop being our mom’s medical team and just go back to being her kids.”
These are sentiments hospice care providers frequently hear from the family members of hospice patients.
Choosing hospice care can be a tough decision, but once the decision is made, families quickly learn that hospice care allows them to focus on quality of life along with their loved ones in end-of-life situations.
The reason is that hospice is not a place; it is a type of care that provides comfort and support to patients and families when an illness can no longer be cured. This is a Medicare benefit and is also covered by most private insurance providers. Each patient and their family receive services from an interdisciplinary team, consisting of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, home health aides and volunteers. The entire team provides care in the patient’s home.
As the desire for hospice services grows in the general community, many in the Jewish community have been reluctant to consider this type of end-of-life care because they are concerned their religious practices, traditions, and cultural values will not be understood. In response to this concern, VITAS Healthcare, the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care, developed “Tikvah” Hospice. “Vitas,” Latin for “life,” chose the name Tikvah, which means “hope.” Hospice care offers hope; hope to die in peace, surrounded by loved ones, in the place where they call home.
Tikvah staff, Cantor Fran Chalin and Rabbi Joe Mendelsohn, both trained chaplains, offer care consistent with the varied beliefs and cultural values within Jewish tradition. They visit with patients and families, facilitate bereavement groups and bring Yiddish and Jewish music to patients. Mendelsohn and Chalin educate VITAS staff—Jewish and non-Jewish alike—in:
• Beliefs, practice and culture within Jewish tradition
• Ethics and philosophy regarding life, the end of life and death
• Concerns regarding artificial nutrition and hydration
• Religious rituals at the time of death and during the mourning period
“Irena,” a Holocaust survivor in Tikvah’s care, would not let herself sleep. “I’m afraid I’m going to wake up dead,” she said. Her Tikvah hospice team both Jewish and non-Jewish, received education and training that helped them respond to unique emotional and medical concerns within the survivor community. Chalin sat with Irena and together they sang Yiddish lullabies. Irena’s children said they watched their mother relax with the melodies. “Our mom never talked about life in the camps even though we asked throughout her life,” Irena said. “She told us she spoke with Cantor Fran, and if we really needed to know, we could ask her. It’s funny, just knowing that she was finally able to talk about it is enough. VITAS made it possible for her to be with us, and to finally be at peace.”
For more information about Tikvah Hospice or VITAS Healthcare, visit www.VITAS.com or call (714) 921-2273. Α