COLUMN: ‘For everything, there is a season …’

Published 7:30 am Saturday, April 6, 2024

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The wife looked at the hospice nurse and said, “I can’t do this.” The nurse gently touched her hand and said, “Look at me… Yes. You can.”

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

It is emotionally painful and distressing when given a prognosis that you or your loved one’s health has declined to the point where consideration for hospice is an option. However, as painful as this may be, not knowing what to expect is often even more difficult. As I’ve said when I told my personal hospice story, “It wasn’t about me; it was about my husband.”  It was as though I lived in a constant nightmare of not knowing what to expect or what to do. I wanted him healed so badly, but the doctor visits and hospital stays continued to increase, and it was as if no one knew what to say to me. We kept trying different things, and he just continued to get worse. When wariness overwhelmed us both, I insisted he be discharged home. When the doctor told me we would need to contact hospice, truthfully, it was as though my nightmare had come true. However, for the first time, I knew then what I had to do. I had to hold his hand, be there by his side, and love him till the end.

Before we were discharged from the hospital, I met with the hospice nurse, and she explained the process of being discharged under hospice care. The next thing was getting the medical equipment set up in our home. The ambulance came to transport him, and our hospice journey began. As the paramedics brought my husband in, he smiled for the first time in weeks. We were home. After getting him settled into the hospital bed, we began the necessary paperwork. Patiently, the admitting hospice nurse answered our list of questions. After hearing those answers and seeing his pain being minimalized, we settled down significantly. Hospice was a decision that I’ve never regretted. I had no idea that just a few years later, I would become an advocate for hospice, and start a career being a voice for the benefit of its services.

Thankfully, today, the vital role family plays in successful outcomes of health-related events are being acknowledged.  For example, most hospitals today have birthing rooms where, although limited due to space, patient-selected family members and friends are welcome to observe and participate in the miracle of birth. Visiting hours in hospitals and other healthcare facilities are less restricted than they once were, even allowing parents to see their children. We now have hospice hospitals in our larger metropolitan areas designed to accommodate patients, family, and friends. After COVID shut down our world, it was in the forefront of how absolutely necessary it was to be with your loved ones at the end of life. We were fortunate our hospice providers continued to be allowed to give the same loving care to our patients and their families in the home and in facilities.

Just as we need devoted, loving care in the beginning of life, through the weeks leading up to and after delivery of a new life, we need loving care at the weeks and months leading up to the end of life. Hospice is just as much specialized care as obstetrics. Our staff is trained to guide and support patients and their loved ones along their journey. Hospice is there to hold your hand and when you think you can’t, to remind you, that yes, yes you can.

“For everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NJV

 — Vickie C. Wacaster is a Patient and Hospice Advocate for Aveanna Hospice.