Hospice and Palliative Care Month – Celebrate Life
By Victor Montour
Happy Hospice and Palliative Care Month: from all of us at Front Range Hospice. This year for National Hospice and Palliative Care Month I would like to do something a little different. You see, every year, every hospice in the country has posted a blog, newspaper article or purchased a large TV ad to bring awareness to hospice. This year I’d like to share with you how hospice can be something to celebrate and that you can celebrate life while you or your loved one is on hospice.
The dedicated staff at Front Range Hospice work hard every day to help people change the way they view the end-of-life journey and end-of-life care. The most significant way for us to show you how we help patients celebrate life on hospice is to take you on a little journey with one of them…
Meet Mickey, a spunky, independent, 81-year-old woman. You see Mickey never dreamed she would one day have to use hospice, but that’s exactly what happened when she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a progressive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. Mickey who was always the caregiver in her family and career, a retired public health nurse, said she didn’t know who to turn to after her doctor told her she was in the end stage of COPD where there was no further treatment available. As if that weren’t bad enough, Mickey was hit with a “double whammy” when she was talked into having a tracheostomy while in the hospital during an acute exacerbation, a surgical procedure that creates an opening in the neck into the trachea. A tracheostomy tube, known as a ‘trach’, is then placed into the neck opening to provide an air flow passage when the normal airway route is blocked. “Hearing that I had COPD and later discovering that I would have to live the rest of my life with a ‘trach’…it was devastating,” Mickey said. “I’ve never been a smoker and there’s no history of heavy smoking in my family so when I heard that I had a common smoker’s disease and there was nothing I or anybody else could do about it, it broke my heart. At that time in my life I didn’t know who to turn to and that’s when a nurse friend of mine gave me the answer — hospice.” With a slow leap of faith, Mickey called out to a hospice recommended by her friend. The hospice nurse and other support staff came to Mickey’s apartment where she was provided with all her medical needs and the special loving care and companionship of the hospice team. “Although it was a bit scary to place my care into the hands of others, it was the best decision of my life,” she said. “It hasn’t always been easy, but the people who care for me on a day-to-day basis have absolutely become my very best friends. They have taught me how to celebrate my life every day.” As Mickey’s certified nurse’s assistant (CNA) said she enjoys spending time with Mickey two times a week, reminding her to slow down, savor each breath and live each moment to the fullest. “She’s a great lady,” her CNA said. “She’s a wonderful person and when you have someone like that to work with, it makes my days better and my job as a CNA that much more rewarding.” Mickey’s registered nurse case manager said she is amazed at how Mickey has been able to keep her overall sense of joy and optimism despite her unfortunate circumstances. “Mickey has definitely been through a lot, but it hasn’t affected the way that she lives her life, day-in-and-day-out. Mickey is the perfect patient because she is living her life right now, the way Front Range Hospice wants all patients to live while on hospice — to live life every day and celebrate life every day.” Mickey said once, “A lot of people think that when you sign yourself into the care of a hospice you’re there to die or give up. But it’s not the end and in a lot of ways, it can be the beginning.” We at Front Range Hospice are working every day to encourage patients to celebrate life like Mickey; she is a perfect example of that. Apart from the medical and personal care Mickey gets each week, she also receives spiritual care from a hospice chaplain. “The Chaplin is truly sent from above,” Mickey said. “We have wonderful conversations, we pray together, sing together and he even plays hymns for me on the piano. Just having that other type of care and companionship available has been a great blessing in my life.” Taking none of the credit from Mickey, the Chaplin said she is living proof, that living with hospice does not equate to the end of life itself. “Mickey is an inspiration to all those who fear that hospice is the end of life. There’s no scripture that says a hospice determines if you live or die and it doesn’t say that one can’t still achieve quality of life while on hospice. I love what I do for my hospice patients and if I get back even a little of what I’m giving, then I’m getting a lot,” said the Chaplin. Touched by her care team’s words, Mickey thanked them for their endless support and she encourages people at the local elderly community to really consider the idea of hospice when contemplating options for end-of-life care. “I’ve learned so much from my hospice care team and I can’t thank them enough for all they are in my life,” said Mickey while fighting back tears. “They are in one word ‘remarkable’ and it’s because of them that I can live each day with a smile on my face knowing that I’m receiving the best care in my toughest days.”
Join us in celebrating life for National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.
If you would like more information about Front Range Hospice or what you can do to bring more awareness to hospice in your area call 303-957-3101 or 970-776-8080 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.