Article Content

On June 11, 2003, I received a call from my brother that changed my life forever-our mom had cancer of the lymph nodes. A life-limiting illness affects everyone in many ways. It drains your spirit and energy, often leaving one unable to manage even the most routine tasks. Hospice was a Godsend.


Mom sold her home in Connecticut of more than 45 years to live with my brother and his wife in Pennsylvania. Basically, she started life over. At age 83, she was extremely independent for 2 wonderful years. Then she got sick, and 3 months later she died.


Mom was at home during her illness. My brother Paul, his wife, and I were with her. I have no experience in healthcare. I work in a human resources department for an accounting firm. My employer approved a transfer for me to relocate to Pennsylvania to work out of my family's home to be with my mom during this important time of her life.


The hospice staff was on call for questions about how to administer medications or hygiene. They supplied medicine to make mom more comfortable. Hospice staff came every day and took her vital signs. We all laughed and cried together and seriously bonded. It is an experience I will never forget.


My dad had remarried and moved forward with his life. He was 85 when he required open heart surgery. On June 14, 2004, a successful surgery was followed by severe strokes, with frequent admissions to hospitals or nursing homes. He could not swallow, began to lose his eyesight, and could not move his left side. A permanent feeding tube was inserted. After 6 and a half months of this, one night he got angry and tore out the feeding tube. My stepmother called hospice. Hospice professionals talked with her, evaluated their home, and offered to provide home hospice and support. My dad went home and passed away within 32 hours. His last words were, "I think I will go to sleep now."


My fiance's mom was only 66 years old when she died from emphysema. Diagnosed 10 years earlier, she never told her family. She had many health problems complicated by her continued smoking that resulted in visits to the emergency room. Months later, she was admitted to a hospice facility in Texas. She had the most wonderful care. Every need was taken care of, and the beautiful facility had a chapel where I prayed for her. There were many loved ones surrounding her. She was in that hospice for 2 weeks and died on July 12, 2004.


My fiance's stepfather passed away approximately 2 months after his mom. His health had deteriorated for months, and finally, he gave up. His stepdaughter moved in to take care of him. He was lonely without his wife of more than 25 years. His son and daughter and stepdaughter saw to his needs. Once again, a wonderful hospice facility provided his end-of-life care.


My recent experiences have convinced me that hospice team members are a "special kind of person" who enable loved ones to die with dignity and comfort.