May 12, 2013

Is Hospice for You?

In discussing end of life issues (not a popular topic for most people), we do need to be aware of what is available. This became a topic in our group recently because one of Allen's friends is near the end and creating a burden on his family. The wife can no longer assist her husband and the children cannot be present 24/7, although they are doing their best.

In a small meeting of three of our group a few days earlier, I mentioned hospice, and was told that was out of the question and his friend would not hear of this. He wanted to be in his own home until the end. I asked how much everyone knew about hospice. The question went nowhere. I asked if anyone wanted to learn about hospice. Allen admitted that he wanted to know more, not only for them, but for himself as well.

I asked Tim to open his computer and told him to go to this blog site. After he and Allen had read this, Allen asked if it could be printed out. Tim printed it out and then we discussed this further. Allen said this answered many questions for him, but he still had more. I said we have hospice in our town and that there was a hospice care center about thirty miles away. Tim stated that one of the local nursing homes had a hospice room and I said the name of the nursing home.

Allen then asked if hospice was for only the six months prior to death. I said not necessarily as my first wife had been on hospice for about five months when she came out of the hospital and then had a period of recovery during her chemotherapy and hospice stopped. About 18 months later, she started declining in health again and we called hospice back in. A hospice nurse evaluated her and said she was back on hospice care. For approximately the next four months, a hospice nurse was in and out every other day and available at anytime if needed. Fortunately, my wife had friends that were there for her during the day and I was able to continue working.

Then in the month that she passed, the doctor suggested that she enter the hospice care center for a respite period to give me and my daughter some time to recover from her care. My daughter had been home for about a month at that time. The day after she was admitted, the hospice doctor asked her and the rest of the family if we minded if she remained there, as he and another doctor doubted she would leave or live for a month longer. She did not make it another 20 days.

Allen said he wanted to look at the link mentioned at the bottom of the blog and Tim took him there. Allen asked to read quite a bit there and Tim helped him. When we went looking for local information, the local hospice center appeared and at that point   Allen asked if we could go there together as he had some questions for them. Tim called to see if anyone would be available and he said he was told someone would be stopping by his place shortly.

Allen continued reading while we waited. About 25 minutes later a hospice nurse stopped by and she and Allen talked about his friend's situation. The nurse asked if they could go there and Allen hesitated saying that he and she may be thrown out as the husband was very clear about not wanting to do anything but die in his own bed. The nurse stated that this happened quite often, but there was a lot that hospice could do to help the situation and relieve the burden on his wife. Allen finally agreed and Tim said he would accompany them since he knew the family. I said I would be available if needed and started to give her my phone number. The nurse stopped me and said that since I had been involved with hospice before that I should also go.

When we arrived, we all knew something was not good as the wife was crying, as were the two sons. The wife did ask the nurse to look at her husband and we stayed and talked to the two sons. Allen did most of the talking and the oldest son finally opened up saying he wondered how much longer his dad would live. At that point the wife and hospice nurse were back with us and everyone was asking questions. The wife asked the most important question and the nurse asked which insurance they had besides Medicare. After the wife answered, she said that insurance should cover it and there was no doubt he belonged in hospice and this could be handled that evening. She stepped into the next room and made a phone call. When she returned she stated that someone would be there shortly to gather information and that their doctor was also on call for hospice and would be here also.

The wife and her two sons conferred briefly and thanked Allen for helping in their time of need. With this Tim and I gave our comfort and said we would be leaving since the situation was in good hands. When we were outside, Tim remarked that we should have someone from hospice talk to the group and the sooner the better as this had almost caught us completely off guard. Tim said he would send out an email and set up the time and if I would talk to hospice and see if anyone could address the group.

The next morning Tim called and said they wanted it this coming Saturday at 3:00 PM and that Jessie wanted it at her house if everyone agreed and to bring friends if this would help. In my talk with hospice they said that someone would be there but they did not know who at this point. Tim notified everyone again and it looks like Jessie will have a full house. In addition to hospice, there will be someone from another service agency.

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