It’s truely amazing how we are cared for when we care for others. Here’s a true story of my Hospice visitation experience.
Volunteering for Hospice is a noble accomplishment. Actually putting the time on the calendar and adding the activity into my appointment allocation is another. In any case, I decided that I would ear mark Thursdays from 1-3pm and just mark the time off. If I didn’t do that, it would be too easy to allow other things to take precedent and then I’d never get to the Hospice visitations.
The initial training went well as did my first supervised session with actual Hospice patients. These are individuals, whom doctors have indicated may die within six months, thus they are entitled to care by Hospice facilities. The payment arrangements are beyond me, since I’m a volunteer. All I know if that during my father’s last few weeks, he had Hospice personnel visiting him. In addition, my mother went to a Hospice-sponsored support group after he died. I decided that it was a good idea for me to give back to an organization that not only helped my own parents, but one which I might need at some point in the future.
So now I’m actually going on my own to two nursing homes and assisted living centers that house Hospice patients. I was assigned to two dementia patients and one breast cancer patients. With the dementia patients, they can hardly communicate. During the few times that they do, their words are so jumbled that it is very difficult to understand. Yet, I still feel good when interacting with them. Last time one thought that I was taking him “home” not realizing that he wouldn’t see home again. I did my best to explain that he was going to spend the night “here” which produced a very surprised look even though this person had resided at the facility for a number of months. The other dementia patient just smiled and occasionally looked in my eyes as gibberish came out of her mouth. Not really knowing what else to do, I merely told her stories of my cats and what was going on with my day. She continued to smile with wide-eyes. The third patient is very talkative and although gets off track now and then, she’s pretty coherent and loves to tell me stories of her life. She’s the breast cancer patient. I’m not supposed to ask about her illness, but I’d love to know how she can look so good and maintain such a positive attitude, yet be on a six-month to live list. She’s really amazing.
Today, the first dementia patient was in the hospital. It happens. The second one was sleeping and couldn’t be roused. Oh well. And the third was as talkative as ever. I had to be so careful not to let tears come to my eyes as she pointed to the three generations that follow her – her daughter, granddaughter and five-year old great granddaughter. She lost her son many years ago to AIDS. I didn’t ask any questions about that one either. She was very proud of her son whatever his profession was.
So I’m just a person who tries to help, keeping a few people who don’t have much time left on earth company. That’s the Hospice belief. That no one should die alone. And, as I left my cancer patient, the skies opened up to a torrential downpour while I didn’t have an umbrella with me. As I approached the front door, a nurse was holding a huge umbrella, almost as if she was waiting for me. “Could you walk me to my car?” I asked. “Yes, of course” she replied. There she was just as I need her to prevent me from getting soaking wet. I thanked her. Then, once inside my car, I quietly said, “thanks” to the powers to be, since I knew that I was being cared for as I was in the midst of caring for others.