Choosing hospice is not about giving up

June 24, 2011|Hospice Helps

Special to The Herald-Mail

It was 3 a.m. when Dad's breathing seemed to change.  

I was not sure what awakened me, but I felt he needed my help. Throwing on my robe, I rushed to the sunroom where we had placed his hospital bed a few months ago, remembering how he preferred overlooking his garden rather than a sterile hospital room.

When I entered his room, he seemed to be having a hard time catching his breath. I checked the oxygen tank supplied by the hospice team. It seemed to be fine.  

I noticed that he appeared to be grimacing in his sleep. One of his hospice nurses had taught me to recognize symptoms of pain even when he was unable to express it.  

After noticing different signs of increased pain and difficulty with breathing, I called the hospice number on the refrigerator magnet. I knew someone would be able to help me know what to do next.  

 In just a few moments, I heard the voice of a hospice nurse saying, "I will be over soon."

 I relaxed, somewhat, at the sound of her voice and her promise to arrive shortly.

As I waited for the nurse to arrive, I reflected on how grateful I was that we could choose hospice for my dad. We did not really know at that time if we were making the right choice.  

Hospice seemed to be a last resort, almost like giving up. I certainly did not want Dad to think I was giving up and waiting for him to die.  

However, I was so overwhelmed with his care and worried I would miss something important because I had no medical training. Fortunately, I learned that choosing hospice is definitely not giving up. It meant choosing to make Dad's life as rich and fulfilling as possible.

 I learned that the days we have together are full of relaxation now that his pain and breathing are under control. I learned that I have vast support in caring for Dad, and a professional team I can call when any need arises.  

Dad and I are sometimes able to share small adventures each week. Occasionally, he is strong enough to take a drive out to the farm where he first showed me how to milk a cow.  

We like to spend time together in his garden where he teaches me how to tend the flowers Mom loved so much. Some days we just talk or watch a television show together. Hospice has supported us in doing whatever Dad has the strength to do each day.  

The night of Dad's breathing episode, the hospice nurse arrived in a very short time. She agreed that Dad's breathing had changed. Carefully, she examined him and determined how to make his breathing more comfortable.  

As she treated Dad's symptoms, she explained to me what she was doing. Then, she sat and talked with me while we waited for the treatment to relax Dad's breathing.  

Dad drifted back to sleep. His breathing was calmer, and I relaxed also.

It is so good to have the support of hospice.

Shelley J. Steiner is marketing and community relations director of Hospice of Washington County.

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