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Our Hospice experience..


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Although this is an end of life issue, this post is not typical of the recent end of life posts on here. I hope this will be inspirational and comforting coming from the point of view of a caregiver.This is the experience that Mom and I had. It has been very difficult to write, hard to share those last days and hours but I feel it should be shared.

~Chris

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I really want to share our brief experience with Hospice. I feel it is so important to share this story as it is so positive and just so meaningful to Mom and I.

When Jerry was released from the Veterans Hospital in Albany, it was to go home under care of Hospice. I had read some pretty unsettling stories about the care some people had received and I had heard some really sad things about lack of care, lack of compassion, etc, so I was really not sure what to expect. Naturally I did not share those things with Mom, although I am not sure she would have really comprehended much at that point anyway.

Jerry came home on the 25th of June. Due to his late discharge we did not have the chance to make arrangements for Hospice to come until the following day. Mom had phoned me and asked if I would come down and take care of that with her (more like for her). I deliberately went down a bit later than she had asked me to as I wanted to give the intake worker chance to sit down with Jerry and Mom and get a feel for what the situation was. When I did get there, the oxygen people had also arrived so I took over with the Hospice worker.

This lady, who, coincidentally is named Geri, sat with me and explained the whole organization, the services that Jerry had signed on for and what things were available to Mom 24 hours a day. She was so warm, caring and compassionate! I was absolutely at ease with her and just so grateful that things were going to be taken care of and dealt with in the best possible way. She gave me her business card and told me to call her any time, night or day if there was ANYTHING I had questions about, if I needed help with Mom as at that stage you might remember my telling how Mom was in total denial. I was just overwhelmed with this organization and in all the right ways.

I had the good fortune to be at the house on Saturday, June 28th and was able to sit down with the Hospice nurse, Ironically named Christine, as she explained to Mom that Jerry was in the dying process. She very lovingly explained the changes that he was going through, how his body was systematically shutting down. She explained that it was time to stop trying to coax him to take his meds, it was time to just keep him comfortable with the morphine and the xanax and by swabbing his mouth with water to keep it moist. She told us how there is no way of knowing how long the process would take. It could be days, it could be hours but that it was definitely happening and he was leaving us. She gave us copies of the most wonderful booklet, entitled "Gone From My Sight; The Dying Experience: written by Barbara Karnes. (I highly recommend this booklet.. it was such a wonderful source of comfort and information and it really made things comprehendible for Mom especially)

I was not there when Jerry passed. I wish in some ways that I had been but am grateful for having been able to spend much of his last week with him and Mom. It was 1:05am on June 29th and Mom had been woken up about 20 minutes earlier by a phone call from Jerry's sister. (Don't ask my why ANYONE would call the home of a dying man at that hour of the night but it was a blessing..) Mom was laying next to Jerry, listening to him breathe, or fighting to breathe. She gave him his morphine and xanax, she swabbed his mouth and lips and she laid there next to him. He grew a little restless and she moved over closer to hold him. She had him in her arms as he drew his last breath. She told me it was the single most painful moment of her life as well as one of the most peaceful.

The Hospice nurse was called. She came immediately. I am not sure if all Hospice nurses are able to pronounce time of death or not but in this case she was. She went in to the bedroom while Mom dealt with the funeral director and took great care to make sure Jerry was "presentable". She straightened his pajamas, pulled the covers up and folded them back, and cleared away the meds and appliances that were there. She set about destroying the drugs that were left over, took care of tidying up the remaining supplies and when the hearse arrived to remove Jerry, she stayed with Mom and made sure she was okay. (Mom wanted me to wait to come down until morning and I had to respect her wishes.)

The following day we had phone calls from Hospice to check on us, to see if we needed anything and just in general to let us know they were and are there for us. It was just such a comfort.

Although we did not have an extensive experience with Hospice, the few days that they were a part of our lives they showed time and time again that they were wonderful, compassionate and caring people. I am so glad that we had the chance to have Jerry at home where he wanted to be and without the help of these dedicated and caring people, that would not have been possible.

I felt that this story needed to be shared. So often we hear the bad things, the horror stories and the bad aspects of Hospice, but it is rare to be able to share such a wonderful experience even in the face of grief and loss.

As hard as this has been to share, I feel it was worth the effort.

Love and hugs to you all,

Chris

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Chris-

I am so glad that you found such a wonderful, caring hospice group. I am sure that made it so much easier on you and your mom at such a sad, trying time.

It is so good to know that there are groups out there that will come in and help and support the families so much.

Give mom a hug from me!!!

Hugs - Patti B.

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Chris I know how hard it is to share personal experriences like this but THank you for doing so. I think it may help ease the grieving Process in some strange way. THoughts Prayers and Hugs today!!!

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