COLUMN: Hospice offers redirection of care

Published 7:30 am Saturday, June 22, 2024

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Watching someone you love grow weaker and weaker with each passing day is challenging. Yet, sadly, many of us experience this. In my own life, when my late husband was diagnosed with a terminal, non-curable, yet treatable disease, I felt we were living on a roller coaster of emotions, appointments, and treatment options. I questioned everything and was usually told we needed to give the treatments more time, to wait a few weeks, and to see how things went. We did not know what to do, what to expect, or how to accept that our journey together would probably not last until we were older and empty nesters. Our days were long, and our nights were longer.

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

Every day was a journey into uncharted territory for both of us.  During this time, I remember praying, “Dear God, please do not let what I see with my eyes and feel in my heart and mind affect his health.” Even though I did not want to see it, I could see this robust man changing. Every day, his pain and symptoms increased, the sparkle in his hazel eyes decreased, and he became more fatigued.

He depended on me to help him make the right decisions and care for him. I would chastise myself and feel guilty when I became weary from the load that sometimes seemed almost too heavy. One of my jobs was to stay positive and encourage him, and I did not want to fail.

It was only during the last few days that we found the strength to say “no more treatments” and asked for hospice. Many, many times since then, I have said, “I don’t know what we would have done without hospice.” In the months and years following my husband’s death, I realized that we needed hospice for more than just controlling my husband’s pain and symptoms; we needed hospice for our family, and we would have significantly benefited more if we had had it sooner.

Even though medical technology has improved over the years, more positive treatment options are available for many diseases and illnesses. There are still diseases and illnesses that, in all our medical advancements and research, a cure still needs to be found.

Over the years, many physicians have learned more about hospice and are more likely to refer patients sooner than they did years ago. Physicians recognize that hospice is not a withdrawal of care but a redirection of care to meet the needs of patients with an advanced terminal illness/disease. Hospice offers medical intervention, emotional and spiritual support, and guidance. It is for the patient, the family, and the caregivers.

When a cure has not proved effective, hospice will give you the tools and resources to prepare you and your loved one for the last season of life. Do not be afraid to talk to your physician or hospice of your choice about the benefits and criteria for hospice admission, or you may contact me at 334-892-4123.

“It’s no use saying, ‘We are doing our best’. You have to succeed in doing what is necessary.” —Winston Churchill

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