End of Life Care in Vitas Hospice
Seeing as so many people suffer with terminal illness or struggle with the illness of one of their family members, I've always considered myself lucky. I've never had anyone close to me ever die either.
Luck runs out soon enough and before you can blink its your family's turn, your luck has ended, just like that special life soon will.
That day came this past Holiday Season.
My father in law was diagnosed with stomach cancer just nine weeks prior during the month of October. He felt fine and he looked well but he had a feeling something was off. He was only 74 years old, healthy and strong by all counts. My father-in-law seemed to be in the best of health.
By December, after numerous tests and blood work , the prognosis was not good.
The cancer had metastasized throughout his body and hardly an organ was left without the dreaded disease. Two rounds of chemo, left him in such debilitating state that he ended up straight to the hospital.
After a brief hospital stay he is sent home as nothing else can be done for him. A PT Scan shows no signs of the chemo helping. Hospice is recommended.
Coming to terms with his end of life has not been easy but I would like to commend Vitas Hospice Care and their attentive staff for the quality care they provided him and the love and support they gave our family while he was still with us.
What is Hospice ?
Hospice is defined as a facility or program for the caring of dying people.
Vitas Hospice cares for those with life limiting illnesses.
I first found out about this invaluable service from the hospital staff.
Hospice nurses care for terminally ill patients on a daily basis primarily in the patients’ homes, but also in the company’s inpatient hospice units throughout the country as well as in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living communities / residential care facilities for the elderly.
Our family opted for the in patient home care, 24 hour round the clock home nurse care.
My father in law knows he is being sent home to die. Before he can no longer speak he bids all farewell, to his kids individually.
What a cruel thing to realize that your time has come. The end of life as you know it fast approaching.
What a horrific thought. The feeling of impotence as you watch and realize there is not a single thing you can do except to be there to offer love and support to the distraught family.
Thoughts of better days rush by and the memories carved in my mind of a gentle yet passionate man vividly discussing the objects of his affection, mainly family, friends and his beloved Cuba.
My father in law was discharged from the hospital December 24th.
After rearranging his bedroom the day before to fit a hospital bed and other medical equipment he was brought home by ambulance.
We had hoped to celebrate the last Christmas Eve with him but that didn’t materialize as he wasn’t feeling well. This day would be the last day we saw him as he was in life.
Vitas Hospice nurses came and went every 8 hours. The nurses were very attentive and professional.
To deal with impending death on a day to day basis and care for the needy and frail requires a special person. These people are true angels.
Hospice staff set up a work area, they claim a small space to sit and jot down notes and record vitals. Other than that they are very quiet and unobtrusive .
They maintain constant communication with the doctor over the phone, administer medication as scheduled, counsel and inform the family as to what is happening, what can be expected, what is needed for patient care and of course take blood pressure, pulse, change the bedding and act as a companion when the family is too upset or worn out to sit another minute in the room.
He was never unattended and never left alone.
- amednews: Doctors, lung cancer patients skirt hospice talk :: June 15, 2009 ... American Medical New
These time-consuming conversations are emotionally difficult for everyone involved, experts say.
If asked, the hospice nurse, in as much as death can be discussed, will kindly explain the dying process.
Some signs to look for, I learned, would be continuous low blood pressure, shallow breathing, hands and feet starting to turn red and or purple.
If the patient had stopped eating you can anticipate a quicker end of life.
Wisely so, they were very careful in not predicting how long the patient will last, as it is all speculation anyways.
Family and friends came and went around the clock. It seemed like a premature and extended viewing. They brought food and drinks, offered prayers, relived and told stories about my father in law and comforted each other.
He passed away December 28th at 2:30pm. His end of life, and ours...continues on. Surreal.
Everything just happened so quick.
We are forever hopeful and tend to believe we will always have more time. Say what you need to say now. Do what you mean to do now for time is not ours.
Upon the passing of your parents you soon realize nothing will ever be the same. You will always be missing one of your own.
Terminal illness, end of life and hospice care were literally foreign words to me. How quickly they became part of my vocabulary and worse are forever etched in my mind.