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placeholder Senior Living
& Resources

West Oakland center struggles to help homeless seniors

A discussion we
must have
about dementia

Volunteer-made Memory Bears
offer families
grief support

Just for Seniors Calendar

Parish celebrates women religious and the gift of charisms

Our reporter
becomes a Holy Names Associate

forum Nov. 6-8
in Berkeley

St. Teresa: Example
of undemanding love


Rev. Anthony Dummer, OMI

Sister Betty
Shields, SNJM

Sister Nicole
Nguyen Thahn, DC

Rev. Anthony

placeholder November 6, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA
Senior Living & Resources
Ruth Lesher receives the bears made in memory of her mother.
Courtesy photos

Volunteer-made Memory Bears
offer families grief support

VITAS Healthcare has a special program to provide grief support for patients' loved ones. Memory Bears are sewn by volunteers with compassion and love, creating forever friends who can offer a hug or a hand to hold to help ease a hurting heart.

We know it's hard to imagine life without those you've loved. VITAS offers grief support groups (open to the public), individual counseling and resources around the community. The Memory Bears provide an additional opportunity for people to express their emotions around the loss of a cherished family member. They may not want to share their feelings in a group, but when they receive a bear made from that favorite shirt of their dad's, or their wife's comfy pajamas, the memories of joy, love and loss begin to flow. And while they're reminiscing, they literally get a bear hug.

Sewn from the clothing of the departed, Memory Bears may recall the closeness of a loved one or bring a smile to someone in distress. They could offer a sense of security to a child who feels alone or afraid after the loss of a parent or sibling. The effect of a Memory Bear can be just like a pair of warm, fuzzy slippers and a flannel robe make you feel on a cold winter day. A bear is a good listener; a cuddly companion that keeps your loved one close to your heart in times of sadness.

Memory Bears are very much requested by the families of VITAS Healthcare patients, and therefore are only available to them. But you can make a great difference to the bereaved by sewing the bears. All that's needed is a generous heart, some creativity, basic sewing skills and access to a sewing machine. As this clothing is sacred, VITAS will ask you to first make a "demo" bear using some type of clothing. Once you're ready to start, they will supply the bear stuffing and arrange for drop off and pick up of the clothing and finished bears. Most requests from each family are for 3-4 bears (maximum).

If you're interested in being part of this grief support team by sewing Memory Bears, please contact Tami Blaj, VITAS volunteer services manager, at 925-945-3829 or tamar.blaj@vitas.com.

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