What are some of the burdens placed on families when someone enters hospice?

when someone enters hospiceSo much is written about the two most evident benefits of hospice services for patients – symptom relief and pain management.  I’d like to write about the benefits for the family of hospice patients, which are similar – and can be just as profound.    I’m writing from professional knowledge.  I’m the Volunteer Coordinator at Angels Grace Hospice; I’ve been here five years.

But mainly I’m writing from personal knowledge.  My two sisters and I received hospice services in Texas (with my mother in 2004) and in Colorado (with my father in 2007).

Signing my parents up for hospice was in both cases, a clear cut decision.  The handwriting was on the wall.  They were both going to pass in a matter of months.  We had no choice in the results, but we did have a lot of choice in the experiences.  We chose the benefits of hospice. We chose wisely.

We chose peace – for all of us.  We chose calm.  We chose professional guidance and assistance from Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, Social Workers, Chaplains (and in my Father’s case, a fabulous Volunteer who made all the difference.)

What we really chose was LIFE.

Yes, in the midst of my parent’s dying, we chose life.

Because we had hospice on our side, we didn’t have to be the professionals.  We could be the family.  We could laugh; we could grieve.  We could breathe.

I don’t remember any of the professionals individually (other than my father’s volunteer – who I will never forget.)  But what I do remember is the dignity and the calm and the emotional space they gave us.  I remember getting it that no matter what crazy thing I or either of my sisters said, or did, or thought, that it would be okay.  These professionals were all so calm and so non-judgmental.  I understood right away that nothing my family or either of my parents could do would surprise them, anger them or overwhelm them.  This was their job.  They had been doing it for years.  And they, in turn, were backed by their co-workers who had been doing this for years as well.

What a feeling of relief that was.  I can honestly say that I have never been so lost, so overwhelmed, so poor at doing even the smallest things or sometimes even controlling my emotions.  And it was okay.

So of course, my parents both passed away.  But neither was ever embarrassed, afraid or in pain.  And my sisters and I became closer during my mother’s death close (I think we got some help from the social worker on that one).  We remain close today.

Now, seventeen years later, I can look back – and while I definitely count these experiences as the “worst of times” – I can see even more clearly how much more bearable they became  (for my parents, my sisters and myself) because we chose hospice.  Yes, we chose hospice.  We chose life.

At Angels Grace Hospice, in Bolingbrook, IL we provide customized care plans specific to each of the patients and their families.  We provide end-of-life care at home, hospitals, skilled nursing homes or assisted-living facilities depending on individual circumstances.  Contact us with any questions and for further assistance with your end of life care options.