When people find out we work in hospice, the following comment usually follows, “Oh, that must be hard. I don’t know if I could do that.” While that statement is partially right, it can be hard, what they don’t know is how rewarding this calling is as well. At Heart ‘n Home, we are lucky to have compassionate staff that loves to serve others. We also know that this job has the potential to be overwhelming. This is why we work hard to ensure our staff takes some time to have fun, unwind, and take care of themselves. That way they can give their all during their patient visits each and every day. One of the largest supports that our staff has is their fellow teammates. Our caring teams help support and buoy up each other during hard times. We know that as we lift each other up, we rise together.
Just like medical personnel in hospitals and clinics, our medical staff at Heart ‘n Home want what is best for our patients. We want them to be comfortable, happy, and to live a full life. One difference that we have in the hospice setting is that all of our patients are nearing the end of their lives. They either have a terminal illness or their bodies have reached an age where they are no longer thriving or surviving, but instead are declining.
With the realization that our patients have a limited amount of time left, we make sure they are as comfortable as possible. In many cases, this means that a person who has been suffering, oftentimes for years with a disease, can finally be comfortable and enjoy the time they have left. We have an entire team of people to help our patients and their caregivers. We have Nurses that come in and manage symptoms under the direction of the physician. Care Navigators come in and help the patient and family get their affairs in order. Spiritual & Grief Counselors help set up a bereavement plan with the patient and family and they provide spiritual and emotional support. Our trained Volunteers are available and willing to help with extra needs, companionship, and errands. And last, but not least are our Personal Care Assistants who assist patients.
As their name suggests Personal Care Assistants are available to help with all the patient’s personal needs. They help with bathing, shaving, trimming toenails, painting fingernails, rubbing lotion on sore limbs, and they can even help with light housework. They help lighten the load for caregivers and they make each patient feel clean and cared for. It is often a very physical job, but it comes with the satisfaction of helping someone feel and look their best.
Abbie, a Personal Care Assistant at Heart ‘n Home, shares the ups and downs of caring for her patients:
She had a difficult few weeks and instead of letting it bring her down, she took time to pause and reflect. She reached out to her teammates to share her story … a story they know all too well … and by sharing her story she was able to lift her teammates.
“I wanted to share with you why I love what I do and also how it’s okay to slow down and remember the patients and families that we serve. I have had multiple patients pass within two weeks and I know I will have more pass before the end of the month. Let me tell you it’s been a rough two weeks. A Nurse and I just spent two days getting one patient comfortable and handsome enough to take his last breath. I have known this patient since I was a little kid and seeing his smile after I shaved him made my day. Giving someone a clean shave and watching them feel their face and give you a big grin is why I keep going.”
“I have sat for hours in other patient’s homes with families making sure my patients are comfortable and they have a hand to hold so they know they are loved when they leave this world. I have had days in the last few weeks that I have given more hugs then I can count. I have had days in the last few weeks where I have sat in my car and bawled and have pushed those tears to the back of my mind so that I could continue on with my day, so my next patient didn’t see the hurt in my eyes. I have had days the last few weeks where I have avoided going into the office or talking to anyone on the team in person as I know I will end up bawling. My heart hurts for my patients’ families as their loved one leaves this world or has passed; knowing they will have one less at their table this day. I have had days in the last few weeks that in my heart I know I have to say goodbye to someone that I have grown to know and love.”
“I know we all try and keep to our busy schedules, but I have found in the last few weeks that it’s okay to slow down and be in the moment and be thankful for what we have and be thankful for the loved ones that are still with us. I pause and reflect in order to give the best to my patients and their families so they see that I truly care for them and their loved one. I have to slow down and taken a minute to count my blessings and count all the patients and families that have not just welcomed me into their home, but they welcomed me into their family. I share my story as a reminder to remember to slow down and count your blessings as they can be gone in a blink of an eye.”
So when we hear, “Oh, that must be hard,” we say, yes. It can be very hard at times. Our job is remarkable, beautiful, and at times painful, but it is the most rewarding job. It can be hard at times because we are living, caring, individuals who treat our patients like they would treat our loved ones. The hard times occur, but the beautiful moments outweigh the bad. There are so many components to delivering the highest quality hospice care. We love this work and we wouldn’t change a single thing.
Another Personal Care Assistant, Kerri shared, “My heart goes out to our staff and patient’s families after each loss. From one CNA to another, you’re not alone. We give all to our patients and families for one reason only, we love. We love passionately, deeply, and with empathy. And we do it again and again. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Abbie offered excellent advice to slow down and to count our blessings. This is a good practice for everyone and we challenge you to do this regularly. I know that my blessings are many, as I’m sure yours are as well. Kerri expresses so accurately the reasons why we do this work. We LOVE people! We feel it a pleasure to be invited into your lives during difficult times. It’s our mission to lighten your burdens, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And if we can are able to lighten those burdens, make someone feel comfortable, handsome, and loved, they can move on to our next patients knowing we have fulfilled our purpose to affirm life, every day, every time.