A sensitive approach to dying

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loretto_photo_p9By Brenda J. McCutcheon
Sun contributing writer

Editor’s note: The following is a reflection written by the Corporate Director of Elder Life and Spirituality at Loretto.

There is a cycle to life, a beginning and an end. One of the greatest privileges is the “journey” we at Loretto walk with those entrusted to our care and their loved ones. Older adults at Loretto are living life to its fullest because they are engaged in programs that support their physical, social, intellectual and spiritual well being.

One of the aspects of living well is dying well. Death is often a topic that is avoided or just too painful to think about, but it’s a part of life. When I talk about the dying process, I often think, “Why would we not spend as much time planning our death as we do our living?” Loretto’s initiative around caring for the dying is really honoring the sacredness of each person’s life. Like a book with a beginning and an end, Loretto’s goal is to work with elders and their families to write that last chapter. Embracing death enables us to live a meaningful life and form wonderful relationships.

Living with the end of life in mind, we find every day a little sweeter. Some of the things we spend our time worrying about seem small or insignificant in comparison to the gift of life. Since 2007, Loretto has embraced and designed a person-centered model of care for those in the last stage of their lives. Approximately 200 staff members are trained in an educational program entitled “A Sensitive Presence” that provides an interactive format to address fears associated with dying, cultural considerations, caring for families and caregivers, signs and symptoms of dying, spiritual care, facilitation of life review, therapeutic environment and presence.

Support services involve companioning, overnight services, funeral or memorial planning, allocation of resources including music, lighting, Bibles and sacraments of the church. When an individual dies at Loretto, this very private and personal time is also deeply communal. At the time of death, staff encircles the person. We truly journey all the way.

Throughout the Loretto family of care, there are special memorials that pay tribute to loved ones. These remembrances and dignified departures honor and remember the lives of those entrusted in our care. We are grateful for these treasured moments where we can look back and remember, celebrate the living and lend a hand during difficult times.

Our chapel has become a central place of healing for the extended Loretto family, loved ones, peers and caregivers.  These are the special times, when the Loretto family of care affirms the cycle of life by walking tenderly and reverently into death with those we have been fortunate to meet.

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