Home hospice: The means to beautify the end.


(12/11/2019)

From: Daniel Pomeroy

When my fiancé received two terminal diagnoses a few months ago our primary care doctor very tactfully, yet compassionately, stated that it didn’t make a lot of sense to continue seeing her and cited instances where she would see a patient’s obituary in the paper just prior to their next appointment date. She had just returned to clinic after 12 years in hospital service. She knew of what she spoke, then highly recommended that we look into a commencing a meaningful home hospice.

While initially feeling almost a sense of slight rejection, not to mention defeat, I can tell you now that this firm “tell it like it is” medical communication turned out to be probably the most compassionate, straightforward, sincere advice we had received in our three-year battle with what we thought was Lyme Disease but turned out to be Parkinsonism (Multiple System Atrophy). It’s progressive and fatal and sometimes it’s who you hear it from, and how they say it, that determine your degree of acceptance. Thanks for that doctor, you know who you are.

Hospice care, surprisingly most often provided in the home, gives supportive care to people in the final phase of terminal illness. My fiancé was a home hospice volunteer when I met her, and while I had some familiarity with hospital-based hospice, I would soon learn that “there is no place like home” when it is at all feasible.

Their mission is to provide comfort, pain-free if at all possible, so that the patient and family can focus on their inevitable transition and make it as meaningful and yes, as pleasant as humanly possible. Mission accomplished. I don’t know how they do it, immersed in what they do day and night, but they do.

These caring, compassionate, end-of-life professionals are continuously on the front lines, surrounded by the dying process, yet invariably somehow consistently inspire, build up, empathize with, and console not only the patient, but the caregivers and extended family as well because it’s just what they do. Bless them all, it truly take a special person to embrace this vocation.

Before we knew it we had music therapy, ministerial support, a weekly RN visit (and phone call), massage therapy, and a nurse aide, even regular visits from the hospice director. They were all irreplaceable. I finally sensed a degree of some much-needed respite coming on. Having once volunteered for Elder Network here, doing peer support and respite care, I had a very difficult time over two years of her immobility actually finding any.

We were told to call the Winona Health Hospice Hotline (at the hospital) 24/7 with any request whatsoever. We were phoned every Thursday afternoon by them as well to see if we were running short of anything so that the next helper visiting could get it to us before a weekend arrived. They left a three-ring binder explaining the entire program with an appointment calendar within. I could go on and on, suffice it to say that we were overwhelmed with kindness, caring, and had attention paid to things we didn’t even know we needed.

Conscientious, passionate, dedicated, words can’t describe them adequately. They reminded me of the young medic in the movie “Hacksaw Ridge.” Fighting his battle unarmed, yet fully armed, with reverence and passion for the life-saving process. There was never a canceled appointment, not even a miscommunication. I’ve seldom seen this degree of professionalism. I often felt that we were literally catered to, and that’s a very warm and welcome feeling, especially when the one you love is in the process of actively departing.

When she decided that her time had come, our wonderful nurse was by my side in 20 minutes, in the wee hours, when I needed her the most. She called the funeral home before driving here, then sat with me until well after the cats noticed the house was suddenly emptier.

Since then they’ve provided me reading materials like Doug Manning’s “Discovering Permission To Grieve.” I received weekly calls initially and still get a call now and then to see how I’m doing. I received their lovely card with a heartfelt note from all eight of our Angels. Soon there is the upcoming Dinner of Remembrance at First Congressional Church, be sure to bring a friend.

About the time I’m thinking about how these people simply don’t allow me to be alone, I get a phone call the day before Thanksgiving just to make sure that I wasn’t going to be alone that family day.

Their services, I’ve learned, are completely covered by Medicare, no supplemental coverage needed. Because some of their volunteers are unpaid, they can and will take you on without Medicare I’m told.

I will be remembering the Winona Health Hospice Team during this season of giving. How could I forget them? How could you?

 

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