Experiencing hospice care for the first time

Experiencing hospice care for the first time

The goal of hospice is to provide compassionate end-of-life care that respects the dignity and wishes of the patient. Working as a team, hospice professionals provide medical, practical, and emotional support for the patient, their family, and caregivers. The profession can be hugely rewarding as you help individuals and families through a uniquely personal experience. But what happens when a hospice professional experiences the loss of a loved one? What happens when the hospice professional becomes the family member in need of guidance and support?

Recently, a number of our hospice team members have received hospice care for a loved one. Although each journey was different, most will admit that they are better clinicians because of their experience. The experience of accepting help, of being on the other side of the bed, so to speak, gave them a deeper appreciation of what this level of care means to the patients and families they care for.

For a professional caregiver, like a hospice nurse, aide, or physician, it can sometimes be hard to turn off their work persona and just be a member of the family. They may remain in work mode as a way of protecting themselves. This brings me back to a quote from the children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!” that says, “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. We’ve got to go through it!”

When you are faced with the loss of a loved one, it is important to allow yourself to be part of the journey. This is true whether you are a hospice professional or not. Accepting help from the hospice team, other family members, or friends can take your focus away from the practicalities of care and allow you to be present as a family member.

When people are in their final days, relationships become important. This not only includes who is sitting with them at their bedside, but who is calling on the phone or just stopping by. All relationships are important. What people need in their final days is to be with those they love. And you as a family member need that too. We want families to just be families. Sons to be sons and daughters to daughters - even if that daughter happens to be a hospice nurse. Let us shoulder the burden and allow you to be present.

We received a beautiful note not long after the passing of a fellow staff member’s mother. It had so many kind words including this message: “Thank you for taking care of us just as much as you took care of our mother.” I thought, ok, we did our job. When they look back, they can say that they truly felt cared for, that it wasn’t just a job for us.

Hospice professionals – nurses, physicians, aides, social workers, bereavement specialists – draw on their training and professional experience to provide care in patients' homes and in the hospice center. Some also draw on their own experiences of losing a loved one. The lessons they learned about being present, about accepting support, can be valuable to anyone preparing for the loss of a loved one. As psychologist and author, Ram Dass says, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

Dawn Jeziorski is a Licensed Social Worker with Allied Services Hospice and Palliative Care.

About Hospice & Palliative Care

Allied Services Integrated Health System offers both hospice and palliative care services to people throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. Our services include in-home hospice care, inpatient hospice care, inpatient respite care, continuous home care, and community-based palliative care.

To speak with us call 570-341-4320 or learn more here.