Column: Both a place and a process, hospice strives for comfort at end of lifeNovember is National Hospice Palliative Care Month. Fortunately or unfortunately, however you choose to look at it, I had a personal experience with hospice this month.
November is National Hospice Palliative Care Month. Fortunately or unfortunately, however you choose to look at it, I had a personal experience with hospice this month.
The word “hospice” can refer to a place, like an actual building, or a process — the type of care a person receives when it has been decided that life is coming to an end. The philosophy focuses on keeping terminally ill patients comfortable and tending to their emotional and spiritual needs. Palliative care focuses on relieving or preventing the suffering of patients.
By the time you read this, it will have been at least 10 days since I visited a dear uncle in hospice. He was in a nicely converted, comfortable duplex in Edina, and it felt like I was entering a fine home. There was a fire going in a living room, a dining room with a well-set table and coffee, tea and cookies on a buffet. No one seemed surprised or shocked that I just opened the door and walked in.
There was a sign that said, “The Four Things That Matters Most: Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. ‘Say your truth with grace.’”
I quickly found my uncle’s room. He was sleeping, as my cousins had told me he would be. I felt kind of awkward, but my grandma, his mother, had once said, “You will never regret any act of kindness you have done for someone after that person has died,” so I was going with that philosophy that if there was something I needed to do for him, now was the time to do it.
Although one of my cousins and I had already acknowledged that we had lived our lives with him and were on good terms and that anything we did in these last few days wasn’t really going to change our relationship with him, I felt a deep need to see him again.
Earlier this fall he became very ill. He had gone to doctors but nothing was conclusive about what was causing it or what would make him recover. Early this month, the doctors had concluded that no treatment would enable him to recover and recommended hospice. While hearing that word is sad because you realize it’s the end of one’s life, the process of hospice is
My husband told me of his own grandmother who died fearful and in excruciating pain. That’s not only sad, but tragic.
When I saw my uncle on a Monday night he was sleeping soundly, wearing a knit sport shirt. I have been told that people can still hear even if they are unresponsive, so I touched his arm and told him that I was there and how much I appreciated all the support he had given me throughout my life. To me, he looked old and sick, but that shirt sure made him look more dignified than if he had been wearing a hospital gown and had tubes sticking out of his body. My cousin, who I found talking on the phone in an upstairs bedroom, said that the sports shirts with an open back are offered to all the hospice patients.
The upstairs contained three bedrooms, all with fine beds, dressers and comforters, and family members were able to stay there. My cousin was in a room with a queen bed and a television and I slept in an adjoining bedroom with a twin bed.
In the middle of the night she woke me up to tell me that her dad had died. She had already called her siblings and mother. I got up to go downstairs to his room. There in front of his room stood several of my cousins and his wife. I hugged his children and my aunt and then went in to look at my uncle one last time.
While it was incredibly sad, my uncle did not die alone or in pain. And since nobody gets out of this world alive,
I am comforted by the fact that my uncle and his family were able to make this last developmental stage of his life a process not to be feared.
Hospice Care in the Northland
In Duluth we have Solvay Hospice House which, according to Traci Marciniak, is our region’s only Medicare-certified residential hospice facility. Marciniak is the president of the Miller-Dwan Foundation. The Miller-Dwan Foundation raised more than $4 million from people throughout our
region to build Solvay Hospice House. The Foundation owns Solvay, and Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Hospice provides the care within Solvay.
“Solvay looks and feels like a home and features private patient rooms and bathrooms, large gathering areas for families and loved ones, all in a beautiful and peaceful wooded setting,” saidMarciniak. “The patient care is exceptional, allowing for family members to be just that — a spouse, child, sibling, or grandchild, instead of the primary caregiver.” To learn more about the Solvay Hospice House visit www.solvayhospicehouse.org or phone 218-529-3400 or toll-free 877-524-3404. It’s nestled in a wooded area at 801 Baylis Street.