VIDEO: Iolani School’s Hospice Class teaches about life through death.
In this post, I am going to deviate a bit from blogging about music and turn to the subject of hospice and end-of-life care which is the subject of an unusual class at Iolani School. It has now been nine months since my husband of 37 years, Carl Crosier, died last August 28th of pancreatic cancer. You may remember from my post, “We are going on a journey,” that I spoke to Iolani’s hospice class last December about how I coped with this devastating loss. In that post, I wrote:
We had actually scheduled a time for the students to visit Carl during his home hospice care, but the visit never happened because of his rather sudden move to a hospice facility in Ewa Beach following his apparent stroke. What I was touched by were the personal notes the students wrote in two sympathy cards sent to both Carl and me, even though none of them had met either of us personally.
I found out that Iolani’s hospice class is the first in Hawaii and only the second one in the nation. Here’s the course description:
WHAT IS HOSPICE?
Hospice is defined as a caring place where terminally ill people go to die. It is a place where dying people and their families can go to have their physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs met, whether at a person’s home, in a hospital/nursing home setting, or at a small Hospice house setting.
WHAT IS THE COURSE ABOUT?
The ‘Iolani Hospice Program is a course that re-empowers young people to provide bedside-care for the dying. Until the late 1940’s in America, children of all ages played an active role in caring for the dying. Family members traditionally died at home, and doctors made house calls on a regular basis. ‘Iolani students will experience the dying process from a classroom perspective, as well as from a fieldwork perspective. The curriculum includes the physical changes that take place in a person who is dying as well as the psychological, social, ethical, biomedical and spiritual aspects that a dying person and their family experience. Students are trained in class and at one of many Comfort Care Homes in the local area. Training is “hands-on” and demonstrates how to care holistically (body & spirit) for the dying person and their family.
WHAT WILL STUDENTS DO?
As a member of the ‘Iolani Hospice team, students have the opportunity to study, discuss and reflect on the dying process from a cultural, spiritual, psychosocial and clinical perspective. Students have the opportunity to actually care for the dying during several rotations at various hospice inpatient units, hospitals and homes through Hawaii’s hospice agencies. Fieldwork at the respective sites allows ‘Iolani students to interact with and provide comfort care directly to the dying. This care can include: conversation, listening, writing letters, life review, helping with feeding and other dietary needs, assisting with medications and providing the range of bedside care that will help make the dying person as comfortable as possible. However, just being present with the dying person is enough to fulfill your field experience requirement. Any care giving that students are trained to provide will be dependent upon their personal comfort level. In addition, students are placed with seasoned volunteers.
Tonight, the parents of these students, representatives of several hospice agencies, and other invited guests (like myself), attended a special Ceremony of Remembrance to commemorate the many lives that have been touched while on their journey with the dying. A couple of them had enrolled in the course because they were considering a career in medicine. Some had experienced the death of a family member. Yet one by one, each student stood up and said that this course was absolutely life-changing and not only did they learn skills like turning someone who is bedridden, changing Depends, and learning to give someone a shower, they also learned so much about themselves in the process. Most all the students became quite emotional in telling their stories about meeting the dying, and even remembering someone’s smile brought tears. It was difficult not to be extremely moved by their experiences. All of them thanked their teacher, Mr. Robert Kane, for being a mentor, a counselor, and most of all, a friend.
They had collected an article of clothing from the deceased and I had given them a shirt of Carl’s I was willing to part with for the making of a quilt. But the actual quilt making will be realized next school year.
The following links tell you a little more about the class.
VIDEO: Students learn empathy and compassion.
So when people ask me how I’m doing, I tell them that I’m doing fine. In fact, in two days I will begin a new adventure as I go on my first overseas trip by myself since Carl died. I’ll be gone for one whole month and here’s my itinerary:
Honolulu-San Francisco-Newark-Boston (Attend Boston Early Music Festival)
Boston-Newark-Berlin (Travel to Germany)
Leipzig-Erfurt-Eisenach-Weimar-Wittenberg (Luther, Cranach and Bach tour of Germany with the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia)
Berlin-Frankfurt-Boston-Washington, DC (Visit with sister Doris Au MacDonald in Fairfax, VA)
Washington, DC-Hartford, CT (Organ Historical Society convention in Springfield, MA to hear Joey Fala play )
Boston-San Francisco-Honolulu (HOME!)
Living out of only one small carry-on suitcase for a month will be challenging, to say the least! I’ll be blogging on the road, as I can, and am packing my iPhone, my iPad, and my MacBook Air!