Hospice: A Unique Type Of Caring
As a young, new nurse at a nursing home, I would watch the hospice nurses come into our facility to care for our patients and think to myself “I’m going to be one of them one day.” Little did I know what I was getting into. I didn’t know the true meaning of hospice until I experienced it on a personal level.
My grandfather was diagnosed with mouth cancer when I was completing my nursing degree. He went through radiation therapy and had surgeries until he got tired of treatment. He finally told the doctor “I’m going home to go fishing.” He decided to not give up on life, but instead to live the best of what he had left. Our family was heartbroken: How do we deal with this? Home hospice was the best answer to that question.
The NMMC Home Hospice team came into my grandfather’s home to enroll him. On one hand, my family was confused because we didn’t understand the true meaning of the services. On the other hand, we were grateful to have some guidance on what to expect. We had multiple questions that the hospice team delicately but insightfully answered. What will his body go through? What type of medicine will you give him? How will we care for him at home? What, exactly, is hospice?
Hospice isn’t just about a patient’s physical state. Hospice incorporates emotional, mental and spiritual support not only to a patient but to the family as well. The registered nurses came to visit my grandfather in his home and take vital signs. They monitored his pain to make sure his medicine was working. They made sure he was as comfortable and symptom-free as possible. The social worker visited my family in our home to offer emotional support as well as community resource options. Spiritual support was offered through a staff chaplain who offered prayer and uplifting words to my grandfather and our family.
As my grandfather’s condition deteriorated, the hospice team was just a phone call away. No question was a “dumb question.” Every answer given to my family was out of genuine affection. The team kept him out of doctors’ offices and at home with us. They helped to keep my grandfather fishing, riding in his boat, gardening and enjoying life until he was no longer physically capable of doing such. After my grandfather passed away, the bereavement services kept in touch with my family for over a year! They also provided a yearly memorial celebration with a beautiful butterfly release to commemorate each patient’s legacy.
To say I didn’t understand the meaning of hospice prior to my grandfather’s cancer diagnosis is an understatement. I had no idea hospice was not just nurses caring for dying patients’ physical needs. These nurses care for patients who aren’t going to live forever but want to live it to the fullest. I didn’t comprehend that hospice is a team approach by people who would care for my grandfather AND his family. The support my family received was unmeasurable and led us to seek hospice care for other family members with terminal illnesses. As my mom says, “Death is something we will all face, but hospice makes it a beautiful and peaceful experience.”
“Death is something we will all face, but hospice makes it a beautiful and peaceful experience.”