A Ray of Sunshine for the Living. “What are your hopes and fears?” That is what you will hear from a hospice nurse when she walks into the home of one of her patients. Together a hospice nurse and her patient address the needs, emotions, and practical decisions of how to live until it is time for life’s most intimate passage. Death and dying is a subject we find difficult to talk about in this country. We are uncomfortable and at a loss for what to say and how to care for someone who is facing a life threatening illness. At hospice, they know all too well that talking about death, and life at the time of death can ease a difficult time.
A hospice team made up of nurses, doctors, social workers, chaplains, home health care aides and trained volunteers, work together to answer any and all needs of their patients. Whether their needs are physical, psychological or spiritual, the hospice team is there to provide care and support.
Just ask Margaret Rogers, RN, spokesperson for Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice. A cadet student nurse during World War II, Margaret returned to nursing after 10 years of living aboard a sailboat with her husband. Upon her return Margaret found that, “our high technology and our ethics were not always compatible.”
Margaret points out that she was thinking of resigning when Wuesthoff established Brevard Hospice and hired her to be one of the first nurses in the program, “I had found my niche,” she says. Margaret’s message is that the “Big C” stands for comfort, not cancer.
“You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but to live until you die.”
-Dame Cicely Saunders, Founder of the Modern Hospice Movement
The first American hospices where established in the 1970s and were initially thought of as a radical alternative. The hospice Medicare benefit enacted in 1982 served as a catalyst to propel hospice into the American Medical mainstream and it is now the most recognizable care offered specifically at the end of life. 700,000 Americans moved through hospice just two years ago. While most were cared for at home, many others were in nursing facilities and hospitals. More than 3,000 programs are available throughout the United States.
For families in Brevard, Margaret and the many others like her at Hospice are welcome guidance and support to navigate difficult times. Hospice can provide strength and encouragement while assisting the patient, their family and loved ones psychologically and emotionally as well as in planning end of life provisions. Workers concentrate on providing pain medication and relief for nausea and other symptoms, all the while working to help the patient deal with the impact their dying will have on their loved ones. Team members provide spiritual counseling, help work out arrangements for dependents, answer caregivers’ questions, and make themselves available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The impact that hospice has on our community is evident in this letter from Ken Babington, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Cocoa Beach.
As a Pastor, I am called on to do funerals from time to time. Over the years, I have heard numerous families talk about what a blessing Hospice was. As their loved one came to the close of life, Hospice had been there to assist the family. I had heard stories, but they were nothing compared to being part of the story.
In the past few months, an elderly gentleman with no family was not able to live alone. One of our members moved in to cook, clean and be a friend. A month ago, the man was told he had cancer, with little time to live. The church member was not trained for what he knew was coming … but Hospice arrived! They began to care for the patient, the caregiver and the Pastor. No need was left undone, and there was no expense to anyone except Hospice.
Winston Churchill once said: “Never have so few done so much with so little.” The people of Hospice have numerous families across Brevard County, but they treated us like we were their only one. They came early; they stayed late. They called 24×7 to check on all of us. They arranged for medicine, medical needs and even volunteers to give our member a break. Hospice was the strong support to make his final days more peaceful. The patient was cared for by the professionals, and the caregiver was provided the encouragement by these same people so that he could bring comfort to a man in his last days.
Prior to a funeral, families have asked me to “Please say ‘Thank you!’ to Hospice for everything they did.” Out of respect for the families, I have done that numerous times. Now, as I went through their ordeal as ‘the family,’ I began to understand how appreciative the families are.
‘THANK YOU’ is not enough, but for those at Hospice who minister to the families around Brevard County, as you comfort and care for the dying, you are also a ray of sunshine for the living. THANK YOU! The value of hospice in transforming the end-of-life journey for countless patients and families is immeasurable. As patients and families come together, sharing this bittersweet chapter of life, hospice offers hope.
How can you help?
Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice & Palliative Care offers a variety of grief support services to Hospice families. Many of these services are available to any resident of Brevard County whose loved one has died. Hospice would like to help you work through the many feelings you have regarding the loss of your loved one. For more information about their grief support services, call 321-253-2222, ext. 4729 or visit www.BrevardHospice.org.
Attend the Healthy Living Expo on March 5th at the Florida Tech, Clemente Center in Melbourne. Purchase your ticket or volunteer to sell tickets for the Grand Prize Raffle being held to support Hospice House. The winner will be announced at the event. Tickets are only $5. Call 777-6433 or visit www.HealthyLivingExpos.com for details.
Kris Urquhart publishes Natural Awakenings Magazine in Brevard and Indian River Counties. She also helps produce the Healthy Living Expo.