I certainly am no expert when it comes to Hospice, but I’ve learned quite a bit in the past couple of years. My mother-in-law had Hospice in her home during her final weeks, and my mother had Hospice in my home during her last three weeks of life. What I can tell you is Hospice workers are compassionate, selfless, and knowledgeable. They take great pride in their role as caregivers, and always treat families with dignity and kindness.
As I was getting my mother enrolled in Heart to Heart Hospice, the in-take nurse told me that Hospice is the one thing our government does right for our seniors. If your loved one is at home, or at the home of a family member, Hospice services are covered by Medicare. If he or she is in the nursing home, Hospice services are still covered, but you will have the cost of the nursing home to pay. The financial aspect of Hospice was the easiest process I have experienced in regard to medical care.
Although we had moved my mother to our home and knew that she was quickly declining, I was in no hurry to get Hospice involved; it seemed so final. And then we spent the first weekend with her. She had arrived on a Friday, and by Monday morning I called Hospice in tears, practically begging for help. The first Hospice person was at my home within two hours, and not long after others came to get us set up. By that afternoon we had a hospital bed, wheelchair, bedside commode, and bedside table.
That first week, all of the different Hospice providers came to assess my mom and our family. They not only care for the patient, they also provide for the family every step of the way. We felt supported and cared for. My mother’s care team consisted of a nurse, nurse’s aide, social worker, and clergy. Once the initial assessments were complete, all we really needed were the nurse and the aides. Her nurse, Natalie, was a gem. She monitored Mom’s health and her medicines. I wanted to know everything; I have to know what to expect. She kept me informed, even when the news wasn’t so great. The aides came in and bathed and changed Mom. They were so loving and gentle with her.
As those final days drew near, Hospice was our comfort. They let us know what dying would look like. They prepared us for the changes we would see, and gave us the confidence we needed to usher our mom into her next chapter. It was difficult. So very difficult. I cried many tears during those weeks. I was exhausted and sad, but I cannot begin to imagine how much more difficult those weeks would have been without Hospice. They allowed our mother to maintain her dignity during her most vulnerable time. Their presence allowed us to be with our mother and experience her final weeks. As hard as it was, we are so very grateful. Mom kept her quick wit up until the end, and we had lots of laughs with her. She hugged her grandkids and great-grandkids, and more importantly, she felt valued and loved.
And then the time we both dreaded and prayed for came. When Mom passed peacefully, we called Hospice, and they sent a nurse. She washed and dressed Mom, allowed us our time, and explained what would happen from there. The nurse treated us as gently as she did her patient. My mother maintained her dignity until the very end. Is there really anything more beautiful?
Little did we know that a mere two months later, we would be making that call again, this time for our step-father. He is in a nursing home, so it looks a bit different, but we have the same team of caring professionals. Going through this without the support of Hospice would be unbearable. While we are so tired and so stressed to be in this place again, we are grateful to have friends with whom to share the journey.
If the time comes when you need support as your loved one begins his or her journey to the next chapter in life, please don’t hesitate to make that call. I can assure you that they will make your time more precious, and they will ease your stress. If you know a Hospice provider, thank him or her. Every provider with whom I spoke told me that it was a privilege to spend the final days with the patients and families. What a beautiful way to look at their profession. What a beautiful gift to the families they serve.