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Enhancing end-of-life care

For patients in the 10 Illinois counties served by JourneyCare, their hospice care teams work to treat the whole person: body, mind and spirit.

Traditional medicine is elevated to an advanced level with integrative therapies, which help manage both physical and psychological symptoms while also creating meaningful moments. While each JourneyCare patient receives a customized care plan designed around their medical goals, many plans can include these enhancing treatments:

Pet Therapy and Pet Peace of Mind

There are more than 30 volunteers and their pets that make up the program, which includes 33 dogs, two cats and two miniature horses.

Pets visit patients and their families to provide comfort, companionship and physical contact, giving them something to look forward to and improving quality of life.

Volunteers have their pets certified through recognized pet therapy organizations, including programs like Therapy Dogs International, Pet Partners and Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy. Pets are also trained to sense the dying process, such as signs that indicate changes in breathing, restlessness or disorientation.

In addition, JourneyCare offers Pet Peace of Mind, which includes an array of services to keep patients and their pets connected during the end-of-life journey.

Pet Peace of Mind helps prevent beloved pets from being overlooked or forgotten as families deal with grief and loss during hospice care. The program seeks to understand
each patient’s bond with their pet, so they can be assured their trusted companion is also receiving wonderful care.

“The Pet Peace of Mind program takes what we do one step further by embracing treasured pets as a part of the family unit,” Volunteer Services Manager Amy O’Donnell said. “By offering this extra support — dog walking, transporting an animal to the groomer, providing some pet food or financial support for a treatment — we can bring a new level of comfort to our patients. Knowing their pet is receiving great care, too, can make such a tremendous difference.”

Music Care Services

JourneyCare is a pioneer in applying sound to ease pain, anxiety and depression. Our board-certified music therapists use a range of techniques to help patients relax, express feelings and recall significant life experiences.

JourneyCare also uses music to ease suffering at the end of life, employing three of just 57 music-thanatologists in the world that have met the standards for professional certification by the
Music-Thanatology Association International. The organization is the only hospice in Illinois with a music-thanatology program.

Drawing on both musical and clinical palliative care training, these experts create music with harp and voice and modulate its tempo and tone to respond to changes in the body, such as the slowing of pulse and breathing. This advanced, science-based music guides patients through the final hours of life.

Art Therapy

By creating art, patients of all ages can enhance their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Self-expression through art can help resolve conflicts and problems, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness and achieve insight.

For hospice patients, art therapy can aid symptoms like anxiety and pain, says Art Therapist Megan Andriano, while also providing a way to communicate about their illness and facilitate
exploration of spiritual concerns.

“The art making processes and finished art products can both create a space for patients to express and maintain control in a world of change and loss,” Andriano explains.

Massage Therapy and Reiki

In addition to massage therapists that are part of the JourneyCare team, several volunteers certified in disciplines like massage and Reiki — a balancing of the body’s energy patterns — also serve patients.

Massage Therapist Diane Klick says massage allows patients to “be themselves” as they face their illness.

“Massage therapy helps considerably to touch the mind, soul and body of patients, and especially to reduce pain, anxiety and the stress for our end-of-life patients, young and old,” Klick says. “It gives them a wonderful feeling of being ‘whole’ again and it calms the nervous system. For those with very little intimacy at the end of life, compassionate touch is the best opportunity for them to relax and let go.”


– By Elisabeth Mistretta, JourneyCare Content Specialist
Originally published in Touching Lives, Winter/Spring 2017

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