Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What Motivates Hospice Volunteers? (Video 4:52 mins.)

People serve as hospice volunteers for various reasons. That fact is official and supported by research gathered from 351 mailed surveys. Volunteers from 32 hospice organizations gave their reasons for performing regular service. Their comments were ranked in order of importance. The “American Journal of Hospice Palliative Care” reported these results:

1) Help others and learn
2) Foster social relationships
3) Feel better
4) Pursue career goals

Why is this information useful? An analysis of this data can help volunteer coordinators in their approaches when recruiting. Younger volunteers reported stronger career motivations. Retired and unemployed volunteers reported stronger social motivations. Emphasizing service, varied learning experiences involved, and potential for social networking will encourage others to consider participating in hospice volunteer opportunities.

In this video, San Diego Hospice volunteers explain the win-win rewards of serving hospice patients.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”

“Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Muslim Purification Death Ritual

The crescent moon and star symbolize the Muslim faith.

In my last post, I talked about embalming and preparing the body of the deceased for the wake, funeral, and burial. This excerpt from my book “Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes” describes the death ritual preparation experience of a friend of mine whose husband was a Muslim. No embalmment and make-up were used. The body was washed, covered, and buried as soon as possible. I write this with respect for Melvin and in my continuing efforts to inform others of the many facets surrounding death.

“Muslims wash the body of the deceased during a special purification ritual. My friend Carolyn, who is not a Muslim, participated in the washing of her Muslim husband’s body and received great comfort through her involvement. I asked her about her participation in this moving death ritual.

She explained, “The Imam, a Muslim leader, mentioned that three adults, including a spouse, could wash the body of the deceased during a ritual that prepares the loved one for being with Allah. He asked if I wanted to go to the funeral home and be a participant in washing Melvin, my deceased husband. I welcomed this opportunity. I knew Melvin would have wanted me to be actively involved.

In a private room at the funeral home, I used soap and water to clean Melvin’s upper body, while the Imam and another gentleman washed his lower body. During the washing process, I spoke tenderly to Melvin. I told him how wonderful he looked and how much I loved him. Even though he was dead, he wore the most beautiful smile. I knew he heard every word I said. The room was very quiet and serene. After three complete body washings, Melvin’s body was dried, oiled, and wrapped in two pieces of plain white cloth. A final covering displayed writings of the Holy Quran.

“How did you feel about your role during this ritual and afterward?” I inquired.

“What I felt most while washing Melvin was an inner sense of calm. I knew his wishes were being carried out, not only with that ritual, but with all the Muslim rituals related to his death. As I washed him, I knew he was at peace. I remembered how bad his pain had been sometimes before he died. He had prayed aloud to Allah to have mercy on him during his suffering. I felt relief knowing his distress was over. I appreciated the respect he was given. Washing Melvin’s body was a blessing that helped me in my healing.”

© Frances Shani Parker

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many online and offline booksellers in America and other countries and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online stores.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Preparing the Dead Before a Wake and Funeral (Video 6:00)

As a child growing up in New Orleans, I looked forward to going to open-casket wakes at funeral homes. I felt good about wakes, not because I found them entertaining, but because I appreciated the seriousness and empathy of the rituals. This excerpt from my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes, describes my experience, which motivated me to write this post about one form of preparation of the dead.

“Viewers sat in rows of chairs facing the casket and softly talked among themselves. This time together was a reunion for them as well as a time to discuss how the body was dressed and “fixed up” with cosmetics. I had no idea that many people had wakes with closed caskets, no funerals at all, and that death rituals were performed in different ways among various cultures and religions. Comments about the deceased wearing a smile, looking peaceful, or appearing to be asleep were considered good compliments.”

© Frances Shani Parker

I never thought about the people who were involved in preparing the body in such a way that we would be more likely to think the deceased looked content. This video gave me a general understanding of what actually goes on behind the scenes at a funeral home.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.