First of all, I want to say thank you to all of you for your kind comments on my last post about my grandmother going into hospice care. As always the blogging world (at least my little corner of it) has shown itself to be a pretty great place.
My grandmother died in a hospice house on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at about 1:30 pm. I don’t think watching a loved one die can ever be easy, but the people at hospice certainly know how to make a terrible experience a little better. For those of you who may not be familiar, here’s a brief article that explains what hospice care is all about.
The overwhelming kindness of everyone, from security guards, to strangers who volunteer their time, to the doctors and nurses is probably what impressed me the most. Hospitals are usually very impersonal. I understand that they’re very busy doing really tough jobs, and I respect that. But hospice is different. Though I’m sure they’re busy, no one acts like it. They talk to you when you go in, ask you how you’re doing, how your loved one is doing, ask if you need anything. Upon checking in, my parents were given a care package for themselves and my grandmother. It contained a handmade afghan, a handmade cervical pillow, a handmade doll, snacks, activity books (crossword puzzles, word search, etc.) toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, soaps, shampoos, etc.) and a very kind note. The bag had everything you could think of to make the time there a little easier.
Not to confuse kindness with false hope, everyone is very open about the fact that your loved one isn’t going to get better. No one sugar coats anything. The staff is very open about how much time your loved one may have left, and about the dying the process. They just manage to do it with kindness rather than being impersonal or macabre. They assure you that your loved one will be kept comfortable, they tell you they wish for peace for all of you, and they do everything possible to make it peaceful.
Honestly, I don’t know how these people do their jobs. I couldn’t do it. If I tried, I think the only way I’d survive would be to maintain some distance, but they don’t seem to. They ask about the families and chat with you. One nurse even hugged us when we left for the last time.
This begs the question of how you even begin to repay that, or even pay it forward. Saying thank you just doesn’t seem like enough. We brought in dinner most days (my mom never left) and always brought extra to offer to people working there and other families there waiting. Most people seemed really surprised by that, but feeding people in a crisis is how some of us make it through.
We’re sending you thank you cards to people who were especially kind, and I’m planning to bring in a few cakes; one for the day shift, one for the night shift, and one for the family waiting room. It doesn’t seem like nearly enough, but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with. Our family is very grateful for what they did, and I just think they need to know it.
On a lighter note, I promise my next post will be a much happier one, and I’m really looking forward to catching up on everything I missed while I was away from blogging.