Until recent months, when I thought of Hospice, I thought of a home like facility with nursing staff that cater to the terminally ill. I believed Hospice was for those dying of cancer wishing to minimize their hospital stays without putting an undo burden on family members. This, in fact, was why the Hospice movement began in England in l967. But the movement is now reaching out in new directions.
My sisters and I began looking for assistance hospice care service after my 97 year old mother fell. She was living in an apartment in a retirement community where she had managed on her own. After the fall she needed regular assistance getting to the bathroom, dressing and having her food prepared.
My two sisters and I began taking shifts staying with her around the clock. The situation came on suddenly and we were uncertain what the future held. Would she get better, or would she continue to need help indefinitely? Would it be a month or six? Would it be around the clock or part time?
Time stretched on and we still did not feel comfortable leaving her alone. We were wearing thin. She had good days and bad days and while her injuries from the fall seemed to have healed her mental capacity took a serious dip. . We found we were now staying with her for different reasons. She could get to the bathroom and sometimes get herself dressed but she would often forget what she was doing and had become a danger to herself. We were rapidly becoming depleted and still uncertain which way to turn.
My sister hired a part time aide and called Hospice. Both proved to be invaluable. Within 24 hours of placing the call to Hospice, a representative was sitting in my mother’s sitting room talking with us. She gave us literature on the dying process, a packet explaining their services in detail and prescription medications to assist in keeping my mother comfortable no matter what situation arose. She gave us the name of a nurse who would be on call for us 24/7 and set up an appointment for her first weekly visit. In addition she took the time to talk with us about our concerns regarding my mother’s future care options. It was hard to accept that all of this was being offered without a price tag. Everything they were offering was covered under Medicare.