A little-known fact about community-based nonprofit hospice organizations is that their mission often extends far beyond caring for the terminally ill. Many trauma and grief support services are available to anyone in need. Most are free or available at a nominal cost. No family experience with hospice is required.
In a national survey of hospice organizations conducted by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 75 percent of the respondents felt hospice bereavement professionals should have a role in community trauma and bereavement support.
I believe that bereavement programs should be part of the quality initiative at all hospice organizations. Every community’s needs are different, so a comprehensive assessment of the resources already in place prevents duplication and informs ways in which community hospice organizations can complement the good work already in place.
While hospice bereavement services are required, they are not reimbursable, so the scope of services provided varies widely. In Northern Ohio, support from grants, foundations and private donors allows Hospice of the Western Reserve to offer one of the most comprehensive ranges of support available anywhere.
The Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center is available to anyone who has experienced a loss due to death, including individuals, businesses and local school systems. In 2014 alone, the unreimbursed cost of providing these services was more than $1.5 million.
Here is a sampling of some of the community support services available in Northern Ohio:
- School crisis response is funded by the Pentair Foundation and the Ridgecliff Foundation, and provides death-related crisis response, addressing students, families and community trauma after violence, childhood suicide or the death of a faculty member. Assistance is provided in multiple school systems.
- Healing Arts Workshops is funded by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, and offers therapeutic grief support through free art therapy workshops. No art experience is necessary. The creative process enables participants to work through grief and develop skills that enable them to begin to heal.
- Grief resources for children and parents include access to tools and online resources. These include parental toolkits and follow-up classroom grief support sessions.
- Together We Can is a three-day children’s bereavement camp held at Red Oak Camp in Kirtland. Experienced grief counselors gently guide campers through group and individual activities in a natural setting as they explore their feelings and connect with other children who have experienced a loss.
- Riding Through Grief is offered in collaboration with the Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center in Chagrin Falls, is for children ages 8 to 12. Through working with horses on a 45-acre farm, trained grief counselors help participants explore their feelings.
- Addressing Grief in the Workplace assists employers in identifying and assessing organizational needs.
- Individual counseling is available on a sliding scale. A wide variety of free grief support groups and online grief support discussion groups provide additional options.
William E. Finn
Hospice of the Western Reserve provides palliative end-of-life care, caregiver support, and bereavement services throughout Northern Ohio.