For the last several weeks, we have been featuring some of our favorite blogs from years past. This entry was first published by In Care of Dad on October 24, 2011.
by Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC
I think I know why many families are afraid to engage the hospice alternative. It’s partly because they don’t really know what hospice offers, and they’re worried that some useful treatment may be discontinued or bypassed altogether.
And some families believe that involving hospice is tantamount to giving up and inviting the event they are most afraid of: the loss of a loved one.
I also think I know why doctors are reluctant to recommend hospice for patients facing potential end-of-life situations because it goes against their years of training to heal and to cure. Maybe it feels like a personal defeat for them — they are fix-it people with the best of intentions. Doctors can request a hospice evaluation for their patients when it seems appropriate, but it’s clearly hard for them to let go of the procedures they’ve been taught and used repeatedly to great and humane success.
It was the day before Mother died of end-stage Alzheimer’s when I was told that I could have a hospice representative come to the nursing home. I engaged this service immediately and I’m deeply grateful for the compassionate help.
It was reassuring to have the hospice nurse explain the actual physical stages of dying — it allowed us to accept the situation with a bit more calm as Mom neared the end of her life. When Mom’s breathing became labored, the hospice nurse was at her side to administer medication to put Mother at ease. I cherished the opportunity to be there holding Mom’s hand and looking into her bright eyes as the glow of life seeped out of them and she exhaled her last sweet breath.
When Mark, my step-father, was near the end of his life, I engaged hospice much sooner. For two months, hospice provided an aide every single day to assist Mark with his morning ablutions and coax him to eat breakfast. There was also a trained RN who looked in on Mark and a social worker who counseled us as well. As well-intentioned as the nursing-home aides had been, they did not have the time for the kind of one-on-one relationship that the hospice aide provided, and Mark thoroughly enjoyed the consistent personal attention.
Hospice helps with intensive comfort/palliative care, as well as emotional and spiritual support for the elder and the family. Hospice offers a knowledgeable and caring team that takes care of your loved ones right up and through their last moments. Most of us wait much too long to consider the hospice alternative — I certainly did with my mother. But when the end of life approaches, and there is no available medical solution, the people at hospice are the experts at maintaining the best quality of life for as long as a person lives and at helping families cope with the aftermath of the loss.
Pearl of wisdom: Hospice provides expert, compassionate care and support at a very difficult time. Learn about hospice services at www.hospicenet.org and call them sooner rather than later!
Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC is a Geriatric Care Manager based in Fairfield County, CT. For information see her web at joanblumenfeld.com. ©Joan Blumenfeld, 2014.