04/01/05 — Families react in different ways to losing loved

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Families react in different ways to losing loved

By Mike Rouse
Published in News on April 1, 2005 1:47 PM

Directors at Home Health & Hospice Care in Goldsboro can't say exactly how the family of Terri Schiavo felt upon her passing Thursday.

But they have been with families dealing with the same sort of grief many times.

They say that when loved ones have suffered for an extended period of time, families deal with the passing in different ways. For some, it's a relief. For others, it can be overwhelming.

"It is very individualized," says Cathy Hollowell, Hospice director. "It may be a sense of relief. What the patient has been through has been a very physically painful process. For some, it may be hard to accept, especially if it's a child or a spouse."

Home Health & Hospice Care starts preparing families for their loved one's last days when a new patient arrives.

"We introduce bereavement when we make our initial assessment," Ms. Hollowell says. "We try to start preparing families and patients for what is to come. That process is started before the patient actually dies."

Ms. Hollowell says the preparation process differs for families as well.

"That's individualized, too, depending on the patient's cognition and family. We meet the family where they are, walk through the steps, support them in grief, and educate them on the dying process."

Ms. Hollowell says the hospice follows up with phone calls and mailings and provides support groups to meet the family's needs to help them cope after the patient dies.

Hospice president and chief executive officer Dean Lee says the Schiavo case has brought living wills to the forefront.

"The controversy appears to be that there was nothing documented about her wishes. That gives cause for all of us to consider something in the form of a living will, durable power of attorney or health care power of attorney."