Last month I took training for Hospice. It wasn’t easy; even during the sessions I felt emotional as the instructor described the possible scenarios we might encounter in working with those predicted to have only 6 months to live.
Next came the time to select my first client patient. The Volunteer Coordinator sent out a number of emails with possible hospice patient selections. I picked one that was in a reasonable geographic location: and a day that I was available. After preparing myself by making sure I had the necessary paperwork with me, the emergency phone numbers of the hospice organization, and review of this particular client patient’s information, I left home with some in trepidation.
Having arrived, I settled in with my first hospice assignment.
The gentleman had dementia and seemed to feel chatty, in that he wanted to share stories from many time periods in his lifetime. Several stories in particular are worth noting. He seemed to be giving me an overview of his life telling me about how he met his wife, about his children, and some other stories from his childhood. I mentioned that I had a cat in passing just to have a subject to talk. He then decided to tell me about cats that his father had when he was a young man. Unfortunately, his father decided that the 12 cats he had at the time were too numerous and asked his son (this man) to dispose of some. My patient then described in great detail how he took these poor little creatures, put them in a bag, and drowned them in the family pond! I realized that it may have been a painful memory for him; perhaps something that he regretted but he didn’t describe it that way.
It was extremely difficult for me to sit there and listen to the story when I wanted to scream running out of the room in horror thinking of my dear little cat that I love so much in any possible harm coming to him. I love my little rescue guy so much – he’s like a child to me. The emotions that I feel for my little cat were brought up when this patient told me the story from his childhood.
We were taught not to react to anything that the patient says so I had to squash my feelings and just sit there as if he was reading the paper or reciting a shopping list. I had to keep reminding myself of my higher purpose for being there; that I was helping his wife take a break in her caregiving which had been constant for many months. By definition, the doctors had said he was within 6 months of the end of his life. He didn’t seem that frail to me, but then how would I know.
Anyway, I did my best to keep him company and to talk to him as I was there for 3 hours. Eventually I let him rest while I went back to my book. This was how it went for my first hospice visit. Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy visit, nor was it a comfortable experience. That said, it was a blessing for him and for his wife that I was there to assist.
So being of service by volunteering for hospice is not an easy thing to do. It is definitely a higher calling and one that must be carefully thought out before an individual goes down this path. There are great challenges in doing this kind of work. In the end, my first patient taught me that I had done the right thing and that I was moving forward on my soul path since when there is a challenge we challenge ourselves to move forward spiritually.