Stacey Hollebeek 2016-01-21 15:05:32
Thirty-nine-year old Sara Harris knows the value of hospice. First it was her mother, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor following a sudden seizure and lived 12 months with glioblastoma. The months linger sweet in Harris’ memory, thanks essentially to Hospice of Holland, which came in and gently tended her mother—and the family—at her home. “You can’t fix it—take away all their pain and possible fear,” said Harris, an office administrator. “However, showering them with comfort, relief and love is what we can do. Hospice helped us realize we were just giving my mom the ability to go with dignity and peace.” Two years later it was her husband and two stepchildren, killed swiftly in a car accident. There was no need for home visits or medical care; instead, Harris craved the bereavement care many hospices offer. Unlike other counseling she tried, her hospice counselor “was able to listen to all my fears, grief and pain, and find an outlook for a new future—and joy in that.” Then it was her beloved grandfather, who after a couple of falls slowly weakened and faded. Since Harris had been through it twice already, she and her grandmother immediately contacted Hospice of Holland to visit their home. Hospice cared not only for Grandpa Bern, adored by his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but also for grandma and the whole family. “Life is difficult in and of itself,” said Denise Stancill, Director of Business Development at Hospice of Holland, one of several qualified West Michigan area hospice services. “Then when the fact of death comes along, it can be terribly overwhelming. You just don’t know what to expect; what you’re going to need. Just having people come in and take care of things for you makes it a little less scary, easing the discomfort that comes with it.” When would you call for help from a local hospice team? When do you recognize that handling your loved one’s health may be out of your control—that you might be in a bit over your head? Some people just know; others need prompting from doctors or friends. When doctors start to estimate your loved one’s life in months rather than years, when cures are no longer being discussed, when family and friends caring for sick loved ones are too exhausted to continue, that’s when you should call. Maybe a cure is no longer an option, yet your loved one could be made comfortable and his or her last months sweetened—brightened with adept attention and careful consideration for quality of life and last wishes. When you sign up for hospice, a team of capable, vigilant individuals is on—and at—your side. You generally have a doctor to oversee medical affairs and work hand-in-hand with the primary care physician. Nurses will make your loved one physically comfortable, assess physical needs, relieve pain and administer medication. A registered dietician could help plan and carry out nutritional needs, if desired, and a chaplain is typically available at any hour for spiritual sustenance. Yet with all of this medical help, there often looms the anxiety of death, increasingly difficult family dynamics, strained relationships, fear of the future unknown and unexpected financial strains. A licensed medical social worker could join your team to help sort out those difficulties, giving you the gift of more intentional quality time with your loved one. If you can’t keep up with additional laundry, or your loved one is embarrassed for your help in bathing or bathrooms, you could add hospice’s home health aids to your team. Many people identify hospice as a death sentence—as being resigned to the end in sight. This isn’t always true. “Sometimes, people get the support of hospice and then start thriving again,” Stancill notes. “Not all of the time, but it does happen. We’ll tell you if you don’t need us anymore. Then if you do again, we’re there for you.” Hospice care, while worthwhile, may seem expensive. But typically, via Medicare, Medicaid and private insurances, most hospice families end up paying little out-of-pocket expenses. Hospice agencies also do their own fundraising, and use sensitively prepared and conscientious volunteers to keep costs accessible to all. “It’s difficult to make that call,” said Stancill, “but we encourage people to call sooner rather than later. It’s one of those times in life when waiting until the last minute is not the best. Some anxiety can be relieved if you’re willing to open up the conversation.”
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