Recently, I read a touching and hilarious self-penned obituary that was making the rounds on social media. The author sums it all up with wit and candor: “So…I was born; I blinked; and it was over. No buildings named after me; no monuments erected in my honor.” She ends with, “Today I am happy and I am dancing. Probably naked. Love you forever…”
This obituary inspired me to start thinking about the art of a good death. I know, it sounds a bit creepy, but I’m sure, one time or another we will all consider the notion of learning how to die well or assisting a loved one.
My curiosity about the subject compelled me to do a Google search for art and hospice care. What I found is a website named Arts At Hospice, Inc. run by Peter Tracy, a hospice volunteer and musician. He has been a volunteer for eight years, bringing his love of music to the hospice setting. He built his website to inspire and recruit others to become involved in hospice service.
The Connecticut Hospice – The First Hospice in America
Tracy told me about The Connecticut Hospice, the first hospice in America, and introduced me to Katherine Blossom, the Arts Director.
I learned that since its inception in 1974 The Connecticut Hospice, a non-profit, qualified charitable organization, has continued to set the national standard for home and inpatient hospice care serving anyone in need —regardless of ability to pay. It is also the first palliative teaching hospital and has earned the national Joint Commission’s first “Advanced Palliative Certification.”
The Connecticut Hospice Arts Program – The First of Its Kind
Creativity is a leading life force of humanity. Share it with others. Help them find their own creativity. This is the bridge that encourages people to connect. ~ Katherine Blossom, Arts Director
The Connecticut Hospice is also the first of its kind to recognize the value of the arts in hospice care starting its program with seed funding from the NEA in 1979.
With an extensive background in the arts, Katherine Blossom has been the Arts Director since 1996. In addition to her extensive activities at The Connecticut Hospice she has also presented programs and lectured at American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, Tampa, FL; The Society for Arts in Healthcare, Nashville, TN; The National Center for Creative Aging, national webinar; and many more.
Under her direction The Arts Program at The Connecticut Hospice is designed to support quality of life and dignity, self-expression, autonomy, control and choices. Patients are allowed to engage passively or actively in the programming.
The Many Benefits of Art Therapy in Hospice
Art therapy provides a vehicle for patients to take stock and review life through the encouragement of creativity. Blossom explains that this type of reflection is a universal need taking form in many ways — including storytelling, songs, poetry, visual arts, and video. This process of reflecting creates a valuing of the individual’s uniqueness, along with feeling cared for and being honored. She told me, “Creativity is a leading life force of humanity. Share it with others. Help them find their own creativity. This is the bridge that encourages people to connect.”
There are physiological benefits to the art therapy programming, too. Because art therapy is provided in a non-threatening environment, patients are able to let their guard down and relax. When they experience less stress and anxiety this often reduces their need for pharmaceuticals.
The Arts Program Offerings
Staffed by a variety of artists, musicians, board-certified art and music therapists, teachers, and volunteers, programming is available for both in-patient and home care. In-patient programming features group and individual activities: live music and bedside visits 365 days a year; a library of books, CDs and movies; rotating exhibitions by community artists; regular concerts and performances; and free portraiture service. The Wellness Empowerment Program features complimentary therapies such as yoga, Reiki, meditation, and Qi Gong to integrate mind, body and spirit.
Grace Through The Hospice Process
Time is precious. Each moment, each experience is filled with a concentration of emotion. There is no denial about the emotional burden of this type of service, yet Katherine Blossom informed me that the experience is fascinating and filled with rewards. There is an honesty that the dying patient presents that humbles the staff and the volunteers.
At The Connecticut Hospice they understand, “The patient with an irreversible illness suffers from an array of emotional, spiritual, social and financial problems.” Through its team approach of staff and volunteers The Connecticut Hospice helps patients attain an optimum quality of life. It sets the national standard for home and inpatient hospice care for others in the field to follow.
How You Can Make A Difference
Volunteers are welcome in 22 different areas at The Hospice including the Arts. Volunteers may share their art forms, music, literary arts, or bring performances and present art exhibitions. To learn about how to become a volunteer visit: http://hospice.com/volunteer/
For further information about the Arts Program at The Connecticut Hospice visit hospice.com/services/hospice-arts/
To learn how you may help to financially support The Connecticut Hospice visit hospice.com/donate/ways-to-support/
Visit The Connecticut Hospice’s website at www.hospice.com