“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” A.A. Milne
One night while caring for my failing mother-in-law I experienced an episode of utter frustration and helplessness. She was experiencing night terrors, sundowners they called it. Just when I didn’t think I could handle another second of not being able to comfort her and feeling very sorry for myself, exhausted, afraid and alone, a TV priest spoke directly to me. He said, “How dare you complain about caring for your elderly. When, will you ever be so close to someone who is about to enter Heaven?” Something came over me when I heard those words. I was suddenly calm, and no longer afraid of death or the process of dying. I felt honored to be caring for this lovely woman who no doubt was going to Heaven. I said a prayer, asking for the energy to continue providing loving care.
The next day my six beautiful sister-in-laws stepped in to help with around the clock care. Hospice also stepped in. I had no idea who these people were but they included nurses that came to our house, aides that helped with bathing and cleaning up and a social worker. They provided a lifeline and were available to us 24/7.
After my mother-in-laws passing I accepted a job working with elderly clients many of whom were in Hospice Care. It was not what I wanted to do but it was as if God placed his hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear this is what I you need to do.
The job is perfectly flexible and allows me time to write.
When I received a call from my Mother a few weeks ago telling me my father’s doctor placed him on Hospice I knew what that meant.
The goal of Hospice is to keep you comfortable and improve your quality of life, while you are dying. Services are offered in your home or in a Hospice Center. Their philosophy is the complete opposite of the usual medical community which is to cure you in an institutional setting.
Dying people retain some dignity and a sense of control when they are in a familiar, comfortable setting like their own home rather than a hospital. Friends and family are not restricted by visiting hours.
Hospice Care provides medical services, emotional support and spiritual resources for patients in the last stages of life. The team also helps family members manage the practical details and emotional challenges of losing a loved one.
Because my father required fifteen-liters of oxygen (the usual for oxygen dependent patients is 2.5 or 3) he was unable to be cared for at home. He was taken to the Port Orange Hospice Facility in Port Orange Florida. The staff went above and beyond to make him comfortable. Their focus was on him not his diagnosis. Not only could my Mother and I stay with him 24/7, the team made sure we were comfortable too. As devastated as we were to lose him the experience could not have been more peaceful for all of us, most importantly for my Dad. For that I will always be grateful.
Hospice has faced some negativity and even been called a euthanizing organization. These feelings come from professional and personal fears of openly communicating about death.
Hospice caregivers are only concerned with improving your quality of life, keeping you as alert as possible, comfortable and in familiar surroundings with loved ones.
What Services are offered?
*Basic medical care with a focus on symptom management and pain control
*Team member availability 24/7
*Medical supplies and equipment as needed
*Counseling and support to help to help the patient and family members with psychological, spiritual and emotional issues.
*Guidance with the difficult but normal, issues of life completion and closure.
* A break (respite care) for family caregivers.
* Volunteer support such as preparing meals and running errands.
* Continued support for loved ones after death.
People ask me all the time how I can stand to work around so much sadness and death. While the job certainly comes with sadness, it also comes with the opportunity to meet and spend time with some amazing people and their families. I’ve known and learned so much from a woman, who was the first woman to graduate from an ivy- league college and another that was the ‘other’ woman for a well known politician for decades. There were many others with stories I will never forget. I’ve been blessed to hold the hands of elderly women whose family members have forgotten them and left them to die lonely.
Like that TV priest said so long ago, when would I ever have the opportunity to be so close to someone on their way to Heaven. One can never have too many Guardian Angels.
Gone From My Sight
-Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore, a ship by my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: “There she is gone.” “Gone where?”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she is gone!”
There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: “Here she comes!”
And that is dying.
For more information visit: http://www.hospicecare.org
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Next Week: How Hospice honors our Veterans…