COLUMN: Living at the end of life

Published 7:30 am Saturday, May 4, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

As I have lived and worked in the world of hospice, I have come to believe that living at the end of life can be a time of significant personal and spiritual growth; not only for the person facing advanced stages of a chronic disease or terminal illness, but also for their loved ones.

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

Hospice offers help to the family as well as the patient.  Hospice is not just about death; it is about how to live with and cope with a life-limiting prognosis. Hospice offers education on what to expect as the disease progresses and how to cope with the changes and limitations the patient may experience.  Hospice focuses on treating the patient’s pain and symptoms, not treating the terminal illness or chronic disease. With hospice, emergency on-call services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Hospice is end-of-life healthcare that comes to you in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

However, not everyone with a chronic disease or terminal illness is ready for hospice. Stringent regulations regulate hospice admissions and have specific condition criteria. Speak to your physician or call hospice if you have questions concerning the conditions acceptable for hospice admission.

Maybe some of you can relate to the following poem I wrote many years ago while thinking about my late husband and our very short hospice experience:

I knew you had been sick for quite a while.
I had no idea you were walking your last mile.
Had I known your time was so near,
Despite my fear, I would have talked, touched, and loved more.
I asked about your care, your prognosis, your life,
Why couldn’t they tell me? I was your wife?
Or was I in denial? Did someone try to tell me,
Did I refuse to hear? Could I not see?
Did I refuse to accept,
Your diagnosis and prognosis did I reject?
Was it because of disbelief,
That death snatched you as a thief.
We could have made the most of the time you had left,
If only we weren’t afraid of what we felt.
The end of a person’s life should be peaceful and meaningful. Death is a part of life; don’t be afraid to discuss it.

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