Let me give the biggest shout out… Much respect due… to all the ladies and gentlemen who serve as hospice workers. For the uninitiated, hospice care generally involves the palliative care of patients most associated with serious and often terminal illnesses (essentially the focus of providing patients relief from pain as well as mental and physical stress).
The average medical professional or caregiver usually has the job of saving lives or preventive care and/or rehabilitation. This is not generally the case for hospice workers, in that they almost always know there is no saving their patients. Some may have long term prognosis, others may be imminent, but you KNOW they are almost all expected to die.
These people do a wonderful job caring for our family and loved ones. Their goal is to provide some relief to their patients but most often they end up providing a degree of relief and even comfort to the families. Anyone who has had a love one battling a serious or terminal illness knows the stress and unending emotional roller coaster their illness brings.
The commitment, warmth and caring provided by these strangers is so welcomed in those dire times. My initiation with hospice care involved my maternal grandmother. She was always a petite woman, 4’11 maybe a buck, but pound for pound she was one of the most ornery, cantankerous on earth. I had not seen her in years (the complication of the relationship will be explored another time) so I was initially unprepared to see the helplessness of the fragile woman in front of me who weighed no more than sixty to seventy pounds.
By this time in my life I thought I had become impervious to emotions brought on by humans’ deaths. Animals had become an entirely different story, but the indifference that I suffered toward human suffrage had been a concern, so even the slightest twinge of feelings in looking at my grandmother’s labored breathing at least gave me hope I was not completely gone. The truth is that the emotion I had really centered on what I felt my mother was or should be feeling at that moment.
Those concerns were quickly alleviated by my mother’s verbalization as to how pleased she was in being able to provide this type of care for her mother. One of our last times in the hospital together was for a visit with my paternal grandmother. Her cancer had spread throughout her face leaving her vision in question and in constant pain. Her shared twelve person room in Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital, left little privacy and less attention to her needs.
My maternal grandmother was in an entirely different situation. The hospice facility was as warm as could be comprehended with the feel of impending death everywhere. Aside from my dramatics, I was moved at how nice and attentive everyone was, empathetic to my mother and I. No one knew or cared about the family dysfunction we shared only in comforting my grandmother in these final moments of a truly tumultuous life. Their words, efforts and actions in turn appeared to give my mother previously inescapable peace.
I have subsequently experienced the care from hospice workers, and have only grown to more fully appreciate the efforts and sacrifices they make. They deal with patients at literally their greatest moments of despair and the aftermath and raw emotions of those overwhelmed family and friends.
Generally the work of doctors and nurses are recognized and widely appreciated, but this specific area of care is not singled out enough. Serious and terminal illness is so complicated, because as family and friends, the prolonged nature of a patients suffering can be disheartening. Unsurety as to their needs is at a premium. The guilt of holding on versus letting go is constant. None of these questions has a definitive answer, but hospice caregivers give us the slightest bit of relief…the knowledge that we are not necessarily alone, during some of our loneliest moments.
To this, I thank you all.
Though this was directed to hospice caregivers, the same shout out, respect and thank you go out to all health care providers. To the nurses and orderlies and doctors making sacrifices throughout the world to help those in need, you are needed and appreciated.