Eden Alternative Tip of the Week
Celebrating the sacredness of life & death at Elmhurst Extended Care, Providence, Rhode Island
As we change the way we look at the lives of Elders, we also recognize the importance of how we look at death. In a typical nursing home, the spiritual needs of care partners working in the home and Elders are rarely considered following a death. The team at Elmhurst continues to address this issue through a specific set of actions and beliefs. The first belief is that death is sacred and no one should die alone. Care partners working at Elmhurst are trained in comforting and supporting Elders, their family members and each other through the process of dying. Care partners working in the home are supported in various ways, including the allowance of time to personally grieve or attend wakes or funerals for Elders. Memorial services are also held in the neighborhoods at Elmhurst, where Elders and the care partners working in the home can memorialize the person who has passed away.
Our work in recognizing the sacred nature of death is balanced by our joy in celebrating the lives of Elders. Elmhurst has a Celebration of Life committee that does just that. We have been home to weddings, Veterans’ Day celebrations, and a number of other memorable activities that celebrate the importance of each individual. Some, like an event we held to honor of an Elder who was a former New England boxing champion, are decidedly non-traditional. On this occasion, the event included a boxing ring, videos of the Elder’s boxing matches, and a number of local boxing personalities who joined his family to celebrate. Another event transformed our café into a diner, where all the details including the menu and decor were designed by an Elder who had owned a diner in his younger years. On that day, he was the maitre d’ and manager of a diner once again. Another highly successful program features a volunteer who interviews Elders and then presents them with a typewritten book detailing their lives. Elmhurst has also launched an Elder Venture program that allows Elders to fulfill long-held wishes. Through this program, people who live at Elmhurst have gone fishing, boating, and even horseback riding.
Our advice is: ask Elders and their care partners, including those working in the home and their family members,how you can best celebrate both life and death. It is an incredibly fulfilling question to ask and respond to.