Holiday on Hospice: Celebrating Hanukkah at the End of Life
For more than 21 centuries Hanukkah has been celebrated as the festival of light. The eight days of Hanukkah are some of the happiest days of the year, meant to celebrate light over darkness and spirituality over materiality. It’s a time when we spend time with our families, reflect and enjoy the memories of Hanukkahs past and those to come, and take part in religious traditions.
Families and caregivers with loved ones on hospice care are especially in need of the light of this beautiful holiday. For them, sometimes it’s just not easy to celebrate holidays because they’re coping with grief and heavy responsibility. It doesn’t have to always be difficult.
Try these ways to make the most of Hanukkah if you have a loved one on hospice this season:
If you’re celebrating in your loved one’s assisted living facility:
- Make the space your own. Decorate! If you plan to light a menorah in your loved one’s room, consider using an electric menorah or one that doesn’t require real candles so that live flames don’t become anyone’s responsibility.
- Cook for comfort. Ask your loved one if they have a favorite Hanukkah dish. Maybe it’s a recipe from their childhood or the latkes they prepared for their own kids. Then, you can make their day extra special by preparing it for them.
- Help practice religion. If they’d like, find a guide to at-home Hanukkah services and help your loved one go through the nightly rituals.
If you’re celebrating with a loved one on home hospice care:
- Avoid overstimulation. Remember that your loved one might not be able to keep up with the pace of your celebrations for eight days and nights. Make sure your loved one isn’t overwhelmed by people who want to visit with them, especially if any dementia complications may upset some family or friends.
- Be ready for company. If you typically celebrate Hanukkah with lots of guests, make sure that the activity doesn’t interfere with the space, equipment or health routines necessary to your loved one’s care.
- Honor your loved one’s favorite Hanukkah traditions. In your own home, you have more leeway to plan a holiday celebration. If there are Jewish songs, games or traditions that have always been important to your celebration, be sure to carry them out for your loved one.
If you’re celebrating without your loved one and having a difficult time:
- Do what you can. It might just be logistically impossible to physically spend the holiday with your loved one. It will be okay. Check with their care providers to determine the best way for them to receive mail and send along a holiday card or care package. You can also give them a call or simply share memories of them with the people who you can be with.
Because Hanukkah is such a special time to spend with the people you love, losing a loved one can make it tough. When the holiday season reminds you of those you’ve lost in the past, remember there are healthy ways to cope with grief.
For more information about end of life traditions in Judaism, check out this Culture Connections blog post. As for this time of year: remember that Hanukkah should be a happy time for reflection and honoring both your loved one’s presence and memory.
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