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    Posted August 26, 2014 by
    Dallas, Texas
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    Faith Presbyterian Hospice Leaves Handprints on the Hearts of Grieving Families

    When someone close to us dies, we often think if only we embraced them one more time, if only we had held their hand one more time. In response to these feelings, Faith Presbyterian Hospice came up with a special program, Faithful Hands, which visually preserves the simple gesture of holding hands with someone you love via a sculpture of two hands intertwined or two handprints, side by side, on paper. The handprint or sculpture of the loved one’s hand allows the family to still symbolically “hold hands” after he or she passes away. The handprint or sculpture also serves as a reflection of the spirit and helps guide and shape the family member—both now and in the future after their loved one is gone. Faith Presbyterian Hospice encourages families involved with its program to process their feelings, and the organization provides reminders of lost loved ones so families can constantly feel their presence. Family members can choose to have the sculptures and prints made of their hand with the loved one or just the loved one’s hand, if preferred.

    “The handprints and sculptures are created during a ritual between the loved one and his or her family, making for a very sacred moment,” said Ashley Mead, social worker at Faith Presbyterian Hospice. “The experience is both a literal and metaphorical ‘laying of hands’ on the loved one and serves as a final blessing from the family members as the individual passes on. This allows the family to feel as if they are both honoring their loved one, as well as creating a symbol of that person’s strength, love and wisdom being passed on to the next generations. The sculptures are made using plaster that depicts fine details of the persons’ hands, showing soft wrinkles and veins. The ink prints emphasize the size of the persons’ hands and individualized prints unique to each person. Each keepsake captures the essence of the loved one in a special way.”

    McKinney resident Doug Lee, recently lost his wife of six years, Penny, to cancer and was able to find solace in the support of the staff at Faith Presbyterian Hospice. After battling endometrial cancer, she was given a clean bill of health in October of 2013 and her life was getting back to normal. However, in December of 2013, the cancer spread to her brain. In March of 2014, after two brain surgeries and aggressive radiation treatments, the doctors discovered she had pneumonia and the cancer was still growing aggressively. It was determined that her best option was palliative care.

    “Penny was treated by Faith Presbyterian Hospice, and the staff made our situation very sweet and compassionate,” said Lee. “Ashley Mead made a plaster cast of Penny and me holding hands, and on the morning Penny passed, she brought the sculpture in to me. She made an unpleasant situation more bearable, and I’ll never forget that. I knew that the inevitable would happen, but being able to walk through my house and see a model of my wife and I holding hands—that is such a comforting reminder of our relationship, and I feel like Penny’s presence is still with me.”

    Prior to losing Penny, Lee lost a daughter almost 10 years ago, and did not reach out for help in the grieving process. He believes that prolonged his grief and made the situation more difficult for him. He knew that this time, he needed support and is grateful that Faith Presbyterian Hospice has group therapy sessions for family members to attend.

    Lourdes Jaramillo of Plano recently lost her mom and was able to participate in the Faithful Hands program along with her four sisters. Her mom was a relatively healthy woman until she suffered a series of strokes. After her first stroke, she was fully aware of what was going on and seemed much better. She was sent to a rehab program where she did well until she suffered another stroke which sent her back to the hospital. She was released again and underwent rehab. She experienced a third stroke and was sent back to the hospital. At this time, Faith Presbyterian Hospice stepped in to provide palliative care in her last days.

    “The care my mom received as soon as the first nurse from Faith Presbyterian Hospice stepped in was amazing,” said Jaramillo. “The care was provided with such tenderness and all of the staff made us feel as though our mom was the only person there. She was able to participate in massage therapy, music therapy and pet therapy during her hospice care. When mom passed away, Ashley asked if we would like to have copies of her handprint. It was something we would have never thought of, and all of my family is forever grateful for this experience. Some of my family members and I were able to put our handprints next to hers and felt this amazing sense of peace that she would always be with us.”

    This innovative program is one of several unique ways that Faith Presbyterian Hospice helps care for terminally ill patients and their family members. The nonprofit also offers Faithful Wish a program that grants personal requests to make dreams come true and create special memories; Faithful Presence a program that provides patients and families with recorded messages and stories from loved ones; and Faithful Paws which brings comfort through the companionship of certified animals.

    “We are always trying to find new and meaningful ways to make patients feel comfortable during the end-of-life process, and find great joy in being able to provide even the smallest amount of comfort and support to families who are grieving,” said Cindy Douglas, executive director at Faith Presbyterian Hospice. “We encourage those who need hospice care and their families to reach out to us as soon as possible. The longer we are able to care for their loved one, the better their end-of-life experience will be. We are pleased to be able to provide lasting memories, as well as relationships and support for family members to carry out the grieving process.”
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