The newspaper story in this post was written by a hospice patient of ours after her Volunteer, Ellen, did a hand casting for her and her husband. Our patient was so moved by it, she wrote a lovely article in one of our local newspapers.
As a Heart ‘n Home Social Worker, I have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful patients and families traveling their end-of-life journey. I love having the chance to provide emotional support and resources. My favorite part is hearing the experiences patients and families have had throughout their lives.
Recently, my husband, Mike, and I had the opportunity to volunteer for a 90-year-old patient who had a wish to see the new Star Wars movie. My husband has completed the Volunteer Training, but had not had a direct-patient volunteering experience. I was able to go as a Volunteer as well, since the patient was not one of mine. It also was my first assignment as a Heart ‘n Home Volunteer. Mike and I went to pick up the patient and quickly found that while his body had declined in abilities, his mind was clearly sharp and has years of amazing experience to share. He said he had not been able to go out often, so he felt like a car ride and movie was a real treat!
The patient was thrilled to see the new Star Wars film and was wide-eyed the entire movie. After the show, he shared how amazed he was at the technology used in the movie and we were able to spend time reminiscing. As we drove back to his home, I was thinking about the impact of this experience for him, as well as for Mike and me. This gentleman kept thanking us for taking the time to take him to the movies, and how kind this was. I thanked him for letting his care team know about his wish to see Star Wars, so that we had the chance to meet him.
This opportunity was so special because we were reminded how meaningful the act of sharing some time with another person can be. My husband was able to see the meaning behind volunteer work with hospice patients. I reflected on how my time may be as I age. Will others see me as a person who still has something to offer? This experience helped me see past the 90-year-old man to see him as so much more. As a person who still has experiences and stories to share and contribute.
Recently when visiting a couple of patients in a nursing facility, I was holding the hand of a little lady with severe dementia and talking to her softly and calmly. She was unable to communicate with words because of her disease progression, but she spoke volumes of thanks to me when she pulled my hand up and kissed the back of it. This non-verbal gesture spoke to my heart, encouraged my day, and reminded me just how a few extra moments to reach out to someone with love, especially those who can’t request it, can make a world of difference for both people. Hospice made this moment possible.
My mom fought to live with courage and determination. We spent months going to treatments three days a week, transfusions, and ER visits because her will to live was so strong. I could see things were not going well and that treatments were not helping, but she wanted to fight and it was her battle … I was just there to support and do all I could to help.
One day, we went to treatment and could hardly get her out of the car and into the house. She was so weak, so tired, and her life was fading. Her cancer clinic could not bring themselves to tell her that treatments were not working, but I knew. I believe they wanted her to make the choice, knowing she did not want to die. Sometimes making choices is out of our hands. As caregivers, we must often take situations into our own hands and know hospice is ours to use.
I called for hospice, and even though we only had hospice for less than 24 hours, our hospice Nurse brought a calmness and understanding of what was needed. My mom was in discomfort from pressure on her lungs. She did not share this or possibly didn’t realize it herself. Her Nurse immediately identified the problem and took the necessary steps to alleviate her pain. My mom opened her eyes, smiled at her Nurse, and said, “I love you!” At that moment, my mom knew she would be comfortable and could finally relax. As a family, we were able to be together peacefully. She had a calm night and passed quietly onto her next journey the following day.
With hospice we received understanding, assurance, and direction at a time when our emotions and stress were high. All we wanted for Mom was peace, comfort, and for her to pass in her own home surrounded by the ones she loved. My only regret is that we did not have hospice sooner. Hospice brings comfort and kindness in your darkest hour. Hospice made this time possible with my mom.