With hospice, support is available to patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This includes all holidays. Our employees give selflessly during the holidays in order to serve their patients. In return, our employees have had many memorable experiences that will live in their hearts forever. A few of our employees would like to share some of those experiences with you this Christmas. Enjoy these touching stories and enjoy your holidays!
It was Christmas 2008. I was assisting a veteran with dementia to get dressed and ready to discharge home for Christmas. As I was helping him dress, he stated, “Someday I will do something for you young lady.” I then looked up at him with tears in my eyes, and replied, “You are a Veteran sir and you have already done so much for me and our country. Thank you for your service.” I will never forget this interaction. It was by far a highlight of my nursing career.
Brook F., LPN
Heart ‘n Home Hospice in Emmett, Idaho
An Easter Angel
My story took place on a lovely Easter Sunday. I was on continuous care (as we called it back then), and I was blessed to spend time with an elderly couple that beautiful Easter morning. The sweet wife was soon to passing away. This precious husband and wife had been married over 60 years. The husband was so grief-stricken at the thought of losing his wife, that he did not know what to do. Only the three of us were in the home, so I asked the husband if he would like to lie beside his wife on the bed as she slept. His husband’s face lit up and he replied, “I didn’t know I could do that”. This husband thought it would disturb his wife if he rested beside her. I reassured him that it would be the best for both of them! I re-positioned this wife on their bed, so the sweet husband could lie beside her, and I encouraged him to speak softly to her, and tell her how much he loved her…This was the most beautiful, intimate time they could have ever shared. This wife passed away within the hour with her wonderful soul mate laying beside her when she took her last breath.
I will NEVER forget this beautiful sunny Easter morning when heaven received a beautiful angel.
Karolyn G., RN
Heart ‘n Home Training Center in Fruitland, Idaho
A Humble Christmas
One of the greatest gifts of working in hospice care is entering the home of the patient and being able to experience their world. I have cared for patients from many different walks of life. I am always fascinated by what each patient’s “normal” is. I have had a few handfuls of cases that have deeply humbled me.
Bob and Jill (names changed for privacy) lived in a small ramshackle home. He had been admitted to our care for renal cancer and he was only 44. Since Bob was too ill to work, Jill worked part-time at a gas station while being her husband’s primary caregiver during the day. They had a 15-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter.
On my first visit, I was instructed to beware their pit bull Duke who was always outside on a chain. I always entered their home through the back door into the kitchen. They had to keep a plastic tarp in the doorway because they could not afford to heat their home. They used a small space heater to keep the living room (where Bob lived) and kitchen warm. No heat in December is indeed no way to live. Christmas was only a few weeks away and I don’t think any of their family had time to even think about the holidays.
Our hospice team social worker made some phone calls so Bob and Jill could have assistance with their heating bill. Our local rotary club was able to contact local businesses to get them to donate groceries, toys, and clothes.
I will never forget the day I showed up for my routine nursing visit and delivered all the donated supplies. I remember Jill standing in the doorway when I carried in two full bags of groceries. Our local grocers had supplied them with a full Christmas dinner plus enough food for a week. They also got a new television, a video game console for their teenager and toys and school supplies for their young daughter.
Bob was too weak to get out of bed that day but he was so relieved to know his family’s Christmas was provided for. He had tears streaming down his face. Both he and Jill were very matter of fact with their living situation. They did not complain, they just worked hard to provide as best as they could. Their reaction of gratitude made the experience even more rewarding.
My visits were much different after that. You could feel the difference in tension and stress. I no longer had to avoid their pit bull, who was never aggressive, just a little lonely and overshadowed. Bob and Jill were more upbeat. Bob still continued to decline and unfortunately he didn’t last very long into the new year. But, I’ll never forget that Christmas when a team of people joined together to bless the lives of this humble family.
Later that summer, I was at a yard sale (in a different state!) when I heard my name called out. It was Jill. She ran over and hugged me and thanked me for all we did for her family. She said she was still grieving but she looked better. She had regained some weight on her frail undernourished frame and she looked more peaceful.
You celebrate successes whenever they can be found in hospice care. Sometimes it can be something as simple as brushing someone’s hair to help them feel confident going out of their room. At other times it can be more challenging, like brightening someone’s final Christmas. At this Christmas time and throughout this next year, may we look for opportunities to lighten the burdens of others.
Billy F., RN
Heart ‘n Home Hospice in La Pine, Oregon