Don’t Wait for Tomorrow: A Lesson Learned in Hospice

My father’s hospice experience was brief. Less than four days passed between the afternoon he entered the facility and the morning he drew his last breath. In that short time, I learned much about this extraordinary world.

Hospitals typically fight for life, but hospice is remarkable because death is normal, not an enemy to be fought. The first time I walked through those doors, though, I could feel the terror rising in my chest. The brick and mortar reality of the situation made me realize that I was not ready to confront the inevitability of my father’s death. Ready or not, though, there I was.

As I entered the facility, I remarked how different it looked from a hospital. It was more like a hotel, really. There was nicely upholstered furniture and there were beautiful prints on the walls. It even had a conference room and outdoor patio. The normality, as well as the overwhelming silence, left me anxious, though. I had grown accustomed to the hustle and bustle of the hospital, the hurried nurses, the PA announcements, the purring machines. I had come to associate the noise and activity with life, period.

So, when dad went into hospice, I sought out familiarity and routine. For us, that meant watching television. Although he was increasingly passing in and out of consciousness, he would still perk up when I announced that “Jeopardy!” was on. A mere 36 hours before he died, my father beat me at the popular game show quiz, as he had done so many times before.

Save for their check-ins to monitor his condition, the staff gave us complete privacy. That mostly meant letting us watch our shows in peace. However, I eventually relaxed knowing that I could cry or sleep without strangers barging in at any moment, unlike the continuous flow of doctors, nurses and aides that came in and out of my dad’s hospital room.

Another striking difference was the social worker. Within minutes, he introduced himself and said that his door was always open. I thanked him for the offer, but being the buttoned-up type, I assumed that I wouldn’t use his services. To be honest, I didn’t want to share my feelings with a stranger who probably sees hundreds of people walk in and out of his office each year. If I needed to talk, I would call a friend

Jncole

2 years ago

My mom is on her second day at the Hospice House in Coeur d’Alene, ID. My 86 year old mom broke her hip and as hard as the nurses at the hospital tried it was a tragic experience but before she was transported to hospice two nurses came into her room, dimmed the lights and gave her a lilac bath. Then they rubbed her down with lilac lotion and massaged her back. I rode in front of the ambulance as she was transfered to hospice and about two thirds of the way there i smelled the lilac fragrance drift up through the cab. As we drove up to the entrance of hospice it looked like a beautiful mountain resort and as I looked at it I thought ” This is where my mom is going to die” and I felt peaceful about it. The interior is warm and beautiful with a double sided fireplace, very comfortable lounge chairs and some of the best soup and pastries I’ve ever had. Mom’s room is beautiful and warm with painted green walls, rich woods and a pink quilt on her bed. Last night two nurses came in to change her diaper and the one nurse hugged and kissed her as they were rolling her on her side telling her what a brave woman she was. Then I heard that nurse sing Jesus Loves Me to my mom. I know the bible says God uses each of us but I often wonder what I am being used for. It is very evident how these angels of hospice are being used. I am eternally thankful.

Puiblished by Anne Keizer on www.AgingCare.com

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