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The power of a simple breathing technique in hospice care

By Lauri Weiss, CRNP

In yoga class, we use a simple breathing technique called “Ujjayi Pranayama”, which translates to upwardly victorious breath. It is a breathing technique that if done properly can be both energizing and relaxing. The ancient yogis recognized the connection between the mind and body. They found that during challenging moments (physical or emotional) the ability to gain mastery over the breath allowed them to remain calm and triumph over suffering.

Ujjayi Pranayama (oo-jy [rhymes with "pie"]-ee  prah-nah-YAH-mah)  is a balancing and calming breath which increases oxygenation, helps to regulate blood pressure, and promotes relaxation. It can be used at any time to help control pain, ease feelings of breathlessness, decrease anxiety, and promote relaxation. Both hospice patients and caregivers can experience the benefits of this yogic breathing technique, which is easy to learn and can be done at any time. Ujjayyi Pranayama is not a substitute for medication or other interventions when symptoms are severe, but should be used along with other interventions or just practiced daily for its positive effects on mind and body. Read more

The need to stay strong through hospice

By Ron King, D.Min

It’s not uncommon to hear when visiting a family that has just entered hospice care, “I need to be strong for ___________.” The name that goes in this blank could be the spouse, a parent, child, or other relative of the patient.  Or it may be the patient.

The belief is that “being strong” in the face of death will help another person face the reality of it with less pain and help them cope. It makes good sense that if I can be strong for another person, then they won’t have the added worry and responsibility of bearing my pain as well as their own. If I’m strong enough, the other person may even be able to share some of their pain that I can carry for them, allowing them to rest more easily.

Let’s look at some of the assumptions about being “strong”. Read more

Frank Ostaseski’s Five Precepts of Service

by Valerie Hartman, Complementary Therapy Nurse

Today’s post will be of most interest to professional caregivers, who, as Valerie suggests, round out the circle of care provided in hospice. For family caregivers, this post shows how much effort the professional hospice team puts into their work, and how deeply they study end-of-life in its many forms.

Frank Ostaseski is an international end-of-life educator who, in 2004, founded the Metta Institute.  He teaches about death and dying from a transpersonal psychology and Buddhist perspective.  What that means is that he helps hospice clinicians and caregivers better understand the psychological work of the dying.  He shares an expanded understanding of the human experience in order to deepen the listener’s compassionate presence. Read more

Elegy: expressing your feelings to loved ones in hospice

Some deal with life’s transitions with efficiency, removing themselves from emotion until the work is done, the illness passed, the loved one laid to rest. Others immerse themselves in sentiment, sharing stories and memories and letting the tears flow. And some turn to artistic expression to articulate their thoughts, wishes, and feelings. Daughter and poet c.a. allen fell into this third category as she sat vigil by her mother’s side at the end of her life. Read more

Spring cleaning the soul: hospice caregivers can greet spring anew

By Terri Durkin, SLP

Springtime is not only a perfect time for home spring cleaning, but it is a perfect time to spring clean and detox your body as well. Your body needs attention after this harsh, snowy winter, especially when you have been providing care to a loved one with advanced illness.

Spring is a time of renewal. Internal spring cleaning will leave you feeling more invigorated and energetic. Read more

Pets make a difference in hospice care

by Barbara L’Amoreaux

There’s nothing like having your dog or cat nudge your hand or knee when you are feeling blue. They seem to know when you need the connection with something or someone who loves unconditionally. Whether it’s your own beloved pet or a therapy dog, the results are the same–a sense of calm, a distraction, an opportunity for a little comforting tactile stimulation while you pet Fido or Fluffy.

The same holds true for hospice patients.

At Holy Redeemer Hospice, we are lucky to have two wonderful volunteers: Dolores Esposito and her golden retriever, Daisy. Recently, a reporter sensitive to the needs of hospice patients shadowed Dee and Daisy as they made their rounds around our inpatient hospice unit and the home of a hospice patient, which happened to be in the skilled nursing section of one of our LifeCare communities. Read on…you’ll be glad you did.

Finding new hope in dying

By Ron King, D.Min., LMFT


For those of us who are thriving in this world, hope includes anticipation of health and strength.  Restoration and healing are expected.  This hope has kept most of us alive at times when facing illness, waiting for the natural processes, the medication, the surgery or other treatment to provide a cure.

It’s life-giving when we can look forward to getting outside again, being with friends and doing the things we enjoy.  Hope sustains us and those who hope with us for better days.  When our strength begins to return, we light up with plans for a vacation or activity that we’ve not been able to do while recovering from an illness or accident.

But what happens to hope when the doctor shares test results indicating that healing and recovery is not expected? Read more

Should I stay or should I go? Visiting friends in hospice

By Fran Moore, PT

After I saw my last patient of the day, I decided to stop by and visit a dear friend who is going through chemotherapy. Her husband had just undergone major surgery a few months ago, and she stayed by his side until he fully recovered. She never once complained, but I could see the toll that his illness had taken on her. She didn’t mind. She was able to give him exactly what he needed – her love, her presence, her being there when he needed her most.

And now the tables were turned. Less than a month after her husband’s final visit with the surgeon, she was diagnosed with cancer. She opted for chemo, and the side effects were devastating. I hesitated even going to visit her. But I wanted her to know that I cared. Read more

Dry lips and skin in the hospice setting

By Valerie Hartman, RN, CMT, CR

Hospice nurses and nurse’s aides working in end-of-life care all know how important it is to find the right product to soothe stressed skin.  I think any caregiver at home or family member visiting a loved one in a skilled nursing facility or inpatient hospice unit will quickly notice skin changes.  Lips almost always become dry when mouth breathing occurs; winter weather and heating make skin conditions worse for those confined inside; natural nutrition and elimination changes contribute to lack of hydration.  Certain illnesses and medication side effects also contribute to skin and dry mouth conditions. Read more

Look for the blessings: They are greater than the suffering in hospice

By Sr. Gerry Fitzpatrick, MA, MS, LPC, Holy Redeemer Counseling Center

There is nothing good about pain and suffering, yet throughout life every human confronts them in any one of a hundred ways. We ask: “Why?”, “Why me?”, or “Why my loved one?”

Suffering and pain are one of life’s biggest mysteries. Even the most gifted speakers and authors are unable to permeate the depths of its meaning. They may offer us helpful insights and useful tools for dealing with pain and suffering, but it remains a troublesome mystery. People try to make sense of it and unfortunately fall short. Read more