Funeral Traditions Around the World

Posted on Jan 07, 2018

The funeral traditions in the states have stayed the same for many years now. We have a viewing, possibly a religious ceremony, and then a graveside service if the body will be buried. Cremation is also an option for those who don’t like the idea of a coffin. Keeping things the same might sound cliché to some, but it’s actually pretty helpful to have a sense of familiarity when families are going through a difficult, and often unfamiliar, time.

The funeral traditions in America were established over many years and, while they seem normal to us, they are quite different than funeral traditions around the world. Below is a small sample of some unique funeral traditions found in other cultures.

Jazz Funerals

We’re not going too far away from home for this first one. Down in the Big Easy a jazz funeral is a common site. This tradition became popular in New Orleans thanks to the mix of African and European cultures in the city. A jazz funeral starts with a march led by family, friends, and a brass band and ends at the cemetery. The band will play somber music, called a dirge, during the march, but will switch to more upbeat music once the procession leaves the gravesite. The purpose of switching to upbeat music is to have a lively celebration of the life of the deceased.

Custom Coffins

There isn’t a lot of coffin design variation in America, but that’s not the case in Ghana. In this little African country coffins are custom made to reflect the deceased’s personality and hobbies. A coffin can be in the shape of a race car, animal, shoes, airplanes and just about anything that can be made out of wood. Making these custom coffins can take months, which often delays funerals.

Burial Beads

Due to limited cemetery space in South Korea, the price of a burial is incredibly expensive. This high price tag forces most families to cremate their loved ones, but the ashes are made into colorful and decorative beads instead of keeping the ashes in an urn. Families can display these beads around the home. 

Tree Burial

Living trees serve as a burial site in certain regions of the Philippines. When a member of the community is nearing death, they will pick a tree in the forest and their family members will build a hut next to it. The dying person will live in this hut while their family works to hollow out a space in the trunk of the tree. Once the loved one has died, they will be vertically entombed in the trunk of the tree. 

Hospice Care New Year’s Resolutions

Posted on Dec 25, 2017

The new year is almost here and people everywhere are making resolutions to improve their lives. Those with terminally ill loved ones should take this opportunity to make resolutions to not only improve their own quality of life, but also their loved one’s quality of life. Here are a few easy ways you can commit to improving the care you give your loved one.

Just Talk

One of the easiest ways you can have a big impact on a terminally ill patient is just talking with them. It might seem hard to talk with your loved one, especially if they have a weakening voice or dementia, but verbal interaction can lift spirits and improve mental health.

Aim Small

Caring for a terminally ill patient can be exhausting and it’s easy for little things to go unnoticed. However, taking care of minor issues can make a world of difference for the patient. A minor issue that goes unnoticed all too often is hydration. Ensuring your loved one is drinking enough water can improve the effectiveness of treatments across the board.

Be Adaptive

One of the most important parts of end of life care is allowing the patient to still do the activities they enjoy. Due to the limitations of their illness, you’ll most likely have to get creative and adapt their favorite activities. For example, if your loved one loves going to baseball games, but can’t make it to the stadium anymore, watch the game on TV and make it feel like the stadium. Get everyone to wear hats and jerseys, grill hot dogs, take a seventh-inning stretch, and heckle the opposing batters.

As you can see, hospice care new year’s resolutions don’t have to involve a lot of effort or time to achieve. It’s really just about being aware of how little changes can add up to a big difference. What resolutions are you setting this year? 

Osteoporosis 101

Posted on Dec 21, 2017

Osteoporosis

More than 54 million Americans over the age of 50 have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. This disease causes the bones to be brittle and fragile as a result of low mass and tissue. In a healthy body, the bone tissue is constantly being broken down (a process called resorbed) and then reformed. This process happens so frequently that healthy bodies actually replace their entire skeleton every 10 years.

As our bodies grow during our childhood, our bones reform faster than they resorb. However, this imbalance switches when osteoporosis hits later in life. This disease occurs most frequently in older women, causing one in two women to break a bone as a result of osteoporosis.

Risk Factors

The National Osteoporosis Foundation has identified several key lifestyle factors that can increase the chances of developing osteoporosis. Two of the biggest risk factors are lack of exercise and calcium in your daily diet.

Our bones become stronger in response to strength training like lifting weights. Those who do not engage in regular exercise and lead sedimentary lifestyles can increase their chances of an osteoporosis diagnosis. Our bones also need a steady supply of calcium to support the reforming process. Regularly eating calcium-rich foods like yogurt, almonds, and milk can be a great defense against osteoporosis. Other risk factors include smoking, having one or more alcoholic beverage a day, and consuming more than 30oz of coffee a day.

Prevention

As with most diseases, the best way to prevent osteoporosis is as simple as a healthy diet and regular exercise. As stated above, weight training and a calcium-rich diet are the best way to curb the effects of osteoporosis. It’s never too early to start thinking about osteoporosis prevention, especially for young women. Taking steps at a young age to prevent osteoporosis is much easier than trying to treat the symptoms after the disease has set in. 

Obituary Basics

Posted on Dec 21, 2017

Obituary Basics

Writing an obituary for a friend or family member isn’t as easy as some may think. While you likely know this person extremely well, summing up an entire life in a few paragraphs can seem daunting. There’s an underlying pressure to get it just right and do right by the deceased to ensure every reader fully understands who they were and how special they are.

This pressure is the first hurdle to overcome. It’s important to understand that not even Hemingway could adequately describe the full grandeur of a person’s life, so don’t put that burden on yourself. The purpose of an obituary is simply to inform the public of the passing, and to briefly tell their story.

The boilerplate information is often a good place to get started. Age, the cause of death, job, education, family, hometown, and places they’ve lived can serve as low hanging fruit to start writing. From there you can get more detailed by talking about any military service, hobbies, education, interests, anything they were particularly passionate about, community involvement, and church membership.

Now that the basics are out of the way, you can move on to describing personality traits and discussing who the person really was. To do this, it can be helpful to talk with other friends and family members to see how they described the deceased. Look for trends with words used in the multiple descriptions, and use these trends in the obituary. Once you’ve identified the right words to use, try to find a story that exemplifies these characteristics.

An obituary doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but you can make it as intricate as you feel the deceased would have wanted. It can be helpful to try to write the obituary as they would have written it. If they would have cracked a few jokes, then crack a few jokes, but if they were more reserved and dry, keep it simple. Whichever way you go, just remember to tell the basics and then move onto the details. 

Christmas in Hospice

Posted on Dec 14, 2017

Christmas in Hospice

As the Christmas season approaches, families with a loved one in hospice care might be struggling to make holiday plans. If you find yourself in this situation this season, know that this year will be different than years past, but you can still enjoy the holidays with a little planning. Whether your loved one is receiving home hospice or in an assisted care facility, here are a few things you can do to make Christmas special for the entire family.

Home Hospice

Spending Christmas with a loved one in-home hospice care is a balancing act between maintaining traditions and not overstimulating. It’s important to continue traditions and let everyone, including those getting hospice care, enjoy the traditions that are important to your family. However, overstimulating hospice patients with lots of people, sounds, and activity can cause your loved one to tire quickly and feel uncomfortable.

 Assisted Living Facility

Although your loved one might not be celebrating Christmas in their home, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it feel like home. Bring some decorations over for them and add some holiday touches to their living space. If there are special decorations like an angel tree topper or snow globe collection, make sure to bring those over. For the morning of festivities, it might be best to limit the number of people who come over or plan shifts so you don’t overwhelm them. Their living space might not be able to handle a big group of people and large groups can also overstimulate the patient.

If different family members are coming in shifts, this can be a great opportunity for each group to cook a favorite dish and bring it with them. This lets everyone still have a meal with your loved one and lets them maintain a consistent nap schedule.

It might not seem like Christmas and hospice mix, and this might still be an emotionally difficult year, but you can still make this Christmas special. Whatever you plan on doing, check with your hospice medical team to make sure it won’t interfere with treatment. Your hospice team might also be able to help you with a few things, so it never hurts to check.