- By: Candace McKibben
Do you ever wonder who sets the calendar for annual health awareness observances? How did October become the month designated for Breast Cancer Awareness or December 1 for World AIDS day? Did you know that every month of the year has multiple health conditions highlighted for a day, week or the entire month? This gives those living with a particular disease and those who care about them a forum for awareness, education, fund raising and support. November has twenty major health awareness observances, ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to support for those who have survived the suicide of a loved one. While I am not sure why Hospice and Palliative Care landed in November, I believe there is no better month than the one earmarked for gratitude and thanksgiving to celebrate National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. The most common theme heard from those who use hospice services in the care of a loved one is thanksgiving. The expert medical care for controlling pain and symptoms, the attention to emotional and spiritual needs, the focus on what matters most to the patient and family, all compassionately offered with dignity and hope, add more joy to living and peace to dying. This year the national theme for hospice month is, “It’s about how you live,” and it is the aim of hospice care to help make life the best it can be for as long as life lasts. From my nearly fourteen years of working at Big Bend Hospice, I believe hospice has a courageous philosophy of care. Rather than ignoring or shying away from the discomfort many feel in facing our common mortality, hospice compassionately honors that end of life is a time of opportunity. We are pleased to serve our community with expert physical, spiritual and emotional care of those who have a prognosis of six months or so if the disease follows its normal progression. Our support of all those the patient thinks of as family in the circle of care enriches this natural transition that we all will one day experience. We want all those who live in our community to know about this expert, holistic health care intervention for those who are living out life’s final chapter and wish to do so with dignity and loving assistance. Big Bend Hospice has programs and services to support you, from advance care planning well before you need hospice care, to bereavement services for loved ones after a loss, whether or not you used our hospice care. Our beautiful Margaret Z. Dozier Hospice House has been likened to the front porch of heaven and the interventions of our music therapists to the angels themselves. Big Bend Hospice has been working with the Big Bend area for thirty-four years to bring comprehensive end-of-life care and we thank you for supporting and trusting us. As your partner, we are proud of the hospice care we have built together. We invite the community to drop by an Open House at our new Capstone Center,LLC, 1669 Mahan Center Blvd., as we continue to seek ways to support our core mission and meet community need. It will be held on November 16 from 5:00 to 7:00, and we are excited to share with you about some new offerings, including “Transitions” and “Capstone Center.” November is not just the month to honor health awareness observances and to promote gratitude, it is also the month that we remember Veterans. Veterans’ Day, called Armistice Day originally, was on the first anniversary of the end of WWI. There are no more surviving veterans from the First World War, but veterans from other wars are dying daily. Hospices across the nation, and Big Bend Hospice in particular, have been very intentional about caring for the veterans who die in our community in a way that honors them and their service. Partnering with area agencies that support veterans and establishing a strong team of veteran volunteers, we have shared tender moments with our patients around a Valor Ceremony. In these ceremonies the veteran hears their branch of the military theme song sung to them by our music therapist, receives a red, white and blue blanket lovingly made by our volunteers, and hears words of gratitude based on their particular military service. For some patients, the salute that ends the ceremony takes amazing effort but is lovingly executed. It moves the soul. During this month of November, where health causes are remembered and Thanksgiving is celebrated, may we all salute those who have served and who still serve our country and the many hospices nationwide that support us all.