Hospice…the caring journey

It’s a tough one to talk about, Hospice Care. We don’t seem to want to make those plans or even think those thoughts while we are busy living. Once we’re in a place in our lives where we need to be thinking about our own care, someone may have already set up care for us.

Hospice comes at the end of our lives. Hopefully we are surrounded by family, friends, people we love. Hopefully those people have arranged all the things that matter to us, like our comforts. Hopefully our favorite pets are near, maybe even bedside, grieving themselves. Maybe someone knows of our favorite pillow and had placed its softness next to our skin. Hopefully the warmth of that favorite item will provide us comfort. Maybe the grieving pet can provide us strength. And maybe the family and friends nearby can assure us they will live on, will not only survive, but will also find a new calling in their lives. Maybe their sorrow for losing a person they love so much could guide them to places with a new sense of vigor and vitality they couldn’t muster while living in grief and sorrow.

There are so many emotions we feel when we lose a loved one. There is also support. Not only within our friends and family, and not only for the sick, not only for the grieving, but for all involved. Hospice. Hospice, in my experience, offers a caring path to death.

Hospice care dates back to medieval times. Just imagine for a moment. War. Destruction. The Roman Empire is falling. Illness is spreading. Warriors are fighting to keep their leaders’ visions alive. As years pass, kings cannot care for their people, fresh waters are in high demand and low supply, food diminishes rapidly. The death rate rises. Quickly. As we’ve seen in wars throughout history, special people step up and hold the hands of the dying on a battlefield. Special people step up and hold the hands of the loved ones while someone in their life is dying. So for ages, we’ve had special people all around us that will not only see us to another place as we pass over, but they will also care for the ones we love while we hang over the ‘in-between’ and after we are gone. Today, we have organized programs for hospice care. When we know the path our loved one will be taking, their care switches from a curative care to a palliative care. This involves pain management for the patients, gentle care giving, talking to the patient, loving them, and caring for their families. Hospice care is medical care. Unlike other medical care given, hospice is focused on the journey ahead, the lives left behind, and the crossing to come. Many hospice care givers will share their experiences with the survivors in a great pain staking effort to relate in a moment of time we feel as if no one could ever possibly fill our shoes. Hospice will control a patient’s pain with medications, but they will also help the survivors deal with their own pain offering coping mechanisms, hugs, and gentle logic. This kind of care still takes that special person. The one that can help a patient on a journey from which they won’t return. The special person is the same caregiver that will for a year or more check on the physical and mental health of survivors as well as offer families resources for help if they need it.

I’ve been talking about hospice a lot lately, and you will see a glimpse of some of these special people in my upcoming book, 34 Seconds.

Today is a good day to say thank you to those amazing people that work Hospice, that volunteer, and that give time for this stage in life and in death. It’s rarely a process we can tackle alone, and terminal illness is rarely a quick event. These are the special people that always have a hug, an ear, and story to share to remind us we are not alone. These are the people that should know just how special they are. For hundreds of years, these special people have put themselves in situations, willingly, where they might have to close a set of eyes that no longer see, hug a family member, and then go home and live a life filled with….well living.

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