While any caregiver is expected to provide basic nursing and basic medical services for residents of Woodland Hills and elsewhere, including the ones receiving palliative care, the better caregivers are willing and able to do more to help their client beyond monitoring their physical health.
This can include looking for ways to boost their mental health and emotional health as well as providing comfort to loved ones, whether it’s family or friends, who also might be having a difficult time with everything.
The staff at Accredited Home Care always supports and encourages each other to help clients in a difficult time – this is an important part of our mission.
One area where we’ve learned benefits everyone: trying to incorporate rituals in regular care, whether this means creating new ones or continuing ones already in place.
The definition of the word ritual can fit several types of actions, but generally, it can take the form of performing a certain action on a regular basis.
Rituals can show up all through our lives, as something we do on our own or something we do with others. If you belong to a church, everyone saying the same prayers or singing the same songs at the same time can be defined as a ritual. Even the order you perform certain tasks throughout the day if they’re always identical fits somewhere between ritual and habit.
The December holidays are also full of rituals, from putting the same ornaments on the tree every fall or counting down the New Year with the same amount of enthusiasm.
Rituals can serve some great purposes – they can help people feel relaxed and comfortable, and when a particular ritual isn’t observed, people may feel like something is missing or isn’t quite right. Sure, it might feel a little OCD at times, but sometimes any stability is good in a crazy world.
Observing past rituals or even creating new ones should be encouraged in a palliative or hospice situation.
Reasons for celebrating rituals
- Rituals provide security and comfort. Even if everything else feels confusing and out of control at times, especially health matters, the idea of “doing some things the same” could be soothing. Routines are good! It could be something the client has been doing since they were a child, or maybe something you and the client came up with a way to get to know each other.
- Rituals help build anticipation. If it feels like today isn’t going well, we can still start looking forward to a particular ritual in the future. Clients can especially benefit from knowing that a favorite event is coming up soon to help them through the day. This can be as simple as a certain TV show on at a certain time of day, or a visit from a certain therapist on the same day each week. For someone who doesn’t have a lot of social interactions, these scheduled visits can be welcome.
- Rituals can be adjusted. In palliative care or hospice situation where health conditions may change from day to day, a client may want to celebrate a birthday or major holiday if they may not be around for the next one, or a caregiver can suggest it. The same with clients with dementia – they may enjoy getting together for a family birthday even if the actual date doesn’t exactly correspond to the calendar. The ritual will be the same, just
- Rituals can help bring people together. As a caregiver, learning about someone’s rituals can give people the opportunity to discuss the history including details about how long the ritual has taken place, what steps are involved, and why it’s important. It doesn’t have to anything formal either with ancient history – it could just be a fun repeatable activity that someone may have developed a few years ago that caught on with the client and maybe their family.
- Rituals can be part of someone’s legacy. A caregiver can suggest to a client to think of a fun tradition to start and then encourage family members to keep it going after they’re gone. Part of remembering the impact someone has is by continuing one or some of their rituals in their memory. This could be everything from having a meal with their favorite foods to singing or playing a favorite song, to getting everyone together for an occasion the client may have enjoyed. Caregivers, providers, or medical personnel who were part of their life at the end might also appreciate being invited as well. A ritual could also be something with a “pay it forward” format, as a family can show others that celebrating rituals can be a positive part of their grief process. Maybe the client can start a tradition of planting a tree in a community park or garden, and invite others to continue this, first family and then others who like the idea.
Developing rituals between caregivers and clients should be something that develops naturally but they can be rewarding for everyone.