How Hospices Respond to Tragedy

We join a heartbroken nation responding to the tragic shooting in Las Vegas.  While no team members of programs that we have spoken with were killed in the shooting, there are a number of hospice staff who have friends and neighbors who were injured and killed. Our thoughts are with them.  As hospice professionals, we know that grief and loss are a part of life.  But there’s something uniquely tragic about loss that stems from blatant disregard for human dignity.  No matter what our political leanings, religious beliefs or social philosophy, I think we can all agree that there is no place for such senseless violence in our society.

Communities often lean on the support and expertise that hospice can offer when tragedies involving loss of life occur. We have heard countless stories of hospice bereavement counselors going above and beyond their everyday job duties in times of need – from rushing to a school after a car accident that claimed a young life, to offering grief support to a local business that experienced the unexpected loss of a beloved colleague, to opening its doors for grief support groups that are developed in response to a community’s unique needs.  So far, we know that Nathan Adelson Hospice has set up a hotline for community partners to call if they need help or support. Infinity Hospice Care sent credentialed staff to UMC Trauma Center the night of the shooting and they helped the overwhelmed hospital staff by serving food to keep them going. Community organizations are gathering in Las Vegas today to organize and assess available resources and individuals who can work together to address the many needs that will arise in the coming days. I am certain the Las Vegas hospice community will be going above and beyond to help those who were affected by this horrific tragedy.

But there is more we can do. If we are ever to move beyond simple “thoughts and prayers,” we are going to have to come together as a country.  And the hospice community is uniquely positioned to help us do that.  Not just by providing grief counseling – which we will most certainly do – but by modeling how even the most vexing, challenging problems can be managed when people come together. By demonstrating how a team is strengthened when it includes a diversity of perspectives.  By embracing a philosophy that is rooted in dignity, respect and compassion.  Indeed, our nation’s leaders could learn a thing or two from the hospice movement.

In the coming months, I’m going to be talking more about how hospice and palliative care professionals can be leaders in helping America cope with its many challenges.  I hope you all will be a part of that conversation. Until then, thank you for the work that you do every day.

By Edo Banach
President and CEO
NHPCO

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