COLUMN: Quotes to begin the new year

Published 7:30 am Saturday, January 13, 2024

I want to start our 2024 hospice column with a couple of quotes.

Vickie Wacaster, Patient and Hospice Advocate with Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice)

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”   Og Mandino

And I want to elaborate on this one: “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” Gandhi. To me, this is a momentous insight quote, because it’s not just about shaking someone’s hand. A clenched fist can signify, I’m right, you’re wrong, or regardless of what you say, I’m not going to change my mind or listen to your side of the story. How many situations or conversations have you had with someone with a closed-fist mindset?

It is no surprise to anyone that as I type, my thoughts lean toward how people think and feel about hospice. I genuinely believe it’s one of those things like becoming a parent or grandparent; before we have either, we can give advice, we have our personal opinions, and we can tell others stories, but when we experience them ourselves – then and only then can we speak from the heart.

We all know whatever is going to happen is going to happen with or without hospice. Daily, people pass away without being hospice patients. But my question is always, “Why not hospice when you know you have an advanced medical illness and the hoped-for cures and treatments are no longer effective?” Why not take advantage of professional medical people coming to you or your loved one’s home? Why not take advantage of being able to call a medical person 24/7 when you are having or believe you or your loved one may be experiencing a sudden change? Why not have professionally trained people come to you to help with baths and personal care? Why not have your nurse or group of nurses call your medicine into your pharmacy, consult with your physician on your behalf, and keep you and your family updated on changes and progression of what is happening? Why not have someone bring you diapers, wipes, gloves, bed pads, bandages, etc.? Why not have medical equipment such as a hospital bed, over-the-bed table, oxygen, lift, suction, shower chair, and bedside commode delivered to your home when hospice is covered 100 percent under your Medicare Part A hospice benefit and covered under Medicaid? Hospice is often a commercial insurance benefit, such as Blue Cross, United Healthcare, etc. Why not leave your family with 13 months of grief support they can utilize as they grieve and learn to live without you on this earth? 

There is no doubt about it: Whatever happens, will happen with or without hospice. Please do not keep a closed fist when someone mentions the word hospice to you. Also, please do not accept a closed fist from anyone who says you must use a particular hospice. It is your choice.

May you live 2024 without regrets, keeping an open hand and an understanding heart that “we are all just walking each other home.” Author unknown.

— Vickie C. Wacaster is a Patient and Hospice Advocate for Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice).