My family and I have had first-hand experience with hospice when my father was diagnosed with an abscess on his heart valve and can I say, we would have been lost without it!
Their support was almost instantaneous. Dad was mobile with a walker, which was a blessing. However, giving him showers became too much for mom so hospice would send someone 2 - 3 times a week to help him shower. Within 24-hours of signing up with hospice, a hospital bed was delivered and set up, a medical kit was delivered to our home containing morphine and a couple of other medications and we had been assigned a nurse who would come 2-3 times a week as well and as needed. They also provided a volunteer who would sit with dad so mom could get out and have coffee with a friend, or go have her nails done or do a little shopping. Being a caregiver is all-encompassing on someone's mental, emotional and physical capabilities. Therefore, it is extremely important that they receive care as well, and one of many ways hospice helps both the patient and family.
We chose a particular hospice organization because it also had a Hospice House. This was a one-level lovely building that allowed patients to come for care, while the caretaker could have some respite. Two months into dad's journey, it was time for mom to have a break and so we arranged for him to spend one week at the house. It was hugely important for us all to regain emotional strength and sleep. Not all organizations have one and if you find one that does, it is a huge blessing!
Receiving the weekly visits and the continuous care from all the staff was immeasurably supportive for us. It helped us know we are not alone, they prepared us on what to anticipate, made it seem not so scary, and reassured us that they are there to help us at every step. If we saw that dad needed to be looked at by the nurse all we had to do was call, if we were not sure how much morphine to give we could call, 24/7. Soon a routine came and our confidence grew and we felt comfortable about the morphine, the lorazepam, and reading signs of what dad may be going through.
The Day the Lord Called Him Home
For myself, I was spending 4 out of 7 days a week at my parents and was conscientious to make sure to love on dad as though today may be my last day with him. It was a Tuesday, and I was saying goodbye to return to Portland, an hour and a half away from Corvallis. I kissed him goodbye and felt like I needed to return back and kiss him again. He said, I don't need to worry about you and I said no dad, no need to worry, I am good.
The next morning I received a text from my sister that said dad woke up with severe chest pains. I returned, directly to the Hospice House this time as they called to have him picked up and taken there. Dad passed that day and all the staff from the House lined the front doors as dad was picked up. Both times he was there they gave him a handmade quilt that we have now.
The Level of Care
The level of care that hospice gave to our family made all the difference in the world as to our quality of time with dad and the experience of his passing. If you know of someone who has reached a terminal diagnosis, I highly recommend connecting with hospice and letting them help you and your loved ones receive support and understanding during this exceptionally priceless time of transition.