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End of Life Care in Vitas Hospice

Updated on November 15, 2010

 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.

Hospice Nurses

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.

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.

Vitas Hospice Care


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    • azure_sky profile image


      6 years ago from Somewhere on the Beach, if I am lucky :)

      So sorry for your loss. I am a criticl care/ hospice that comes in at the end of life, and am with my patient every day for a twelve hour shift, until they pass, or get better (which believe it or not....happens quite often). I am very happy that you have this hub, as a lot of people don't understand what hospice is. I hate to go into a nursing home to care for a patient and hear the word "death squad" whispered as I walk by the nurse's station. I have had patient's who have been off and on hospice for over twenty years, because they DO have a terminal illness, and there is nothing that can be done for them(regarding modern medicine).......they are seen at least weekly by a hospice nurse, and if they start that rapid decline, we are at their bedside 24/7 for as long as the doctor wants us there. I recently was at the bedside of a patient who had a few really rough days. Family came from all over to say their good-byes, but on the morning of the fifth day, her eyes popped open, she looked at me, and said "Honey, what the hell happened to me??". I explained what had occurred, and then she asked me what day it was. I told her that it was Monday. She said "Great!!! I didn't miss BINGO"!!!! Thanks again for writing this hub! Upped+ this one!!

    • Bail Up ! profile imageAUTHOR

      Bail Up ! 

      9 years ago


      Sorry about your father. Just know they will take good care of him and keep him comfortable. I'm glad to be able to share and help others realize what hospice is all about. Thaks for stopping in.

    • Bail Up ! profile imageAUTHOR

      Bail Up ! 

      9 years ago


      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. These hospice people really don't get enough recognition for the work they do. They are behind the scenes caregivers and so its good to let them know they are highly regarded. Thank you.

    • RTalloni profile image


      9 years ago from the short journey

      Thank you for sharing your story and information. We will be meeting hospice nurses soon as my father's MFH has not responded to treatment. Thank you for encouragement re hospice. I believe I will read some of the other hubs re hospice thanks to yours.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Bail up, I offer my condolences for your loss. Hospice is a wonderful organization. I know many people who had family pass away in their facilities and never heard a bad word about them. Thank you for sharing that story. I'm truly sorry for your loss that seems to have happened so quickly.

    • Bail Up ! profile imageAUTHOR

      Bail Up ! 

      9 years ago


      You are welcome. Good to hear the sentiment about hospice workers is the same from all over. Thank you!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Hospice workers are truly amazing. They helped so much with my mom. Thank you!

    • Bail Up ! profile imageAUTHOR

      Bail Up ! 

      9 years ago

      Hi TonyMac04

      Thanks for sharing your story about your families experience with Hospice. It is pretty special to be able to leave this world from home if possible. The more I deal with hopice and nurses the more I realize what a selfless career it is - to care for others at their most difficult time. They sure are an inspiring bunch. Thanks for stopping by.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      I love Hospice! My mother died of cancer and she suffered for a long, long time. The Hospice people came to our house regularly and helped us deal with her pain and her occasional irascibility and my father's irrational denial. They were simply wonderful and so Mum died at home surrounded by the people she loved and with little pain, in the end. The Hospice people had taught us how to inject the morphine when necessary and all. I have the greatest respect for them

      Thanks for this Hub, for sharing your story. We learn so much from each other!

      Love and peace


    • Bail Up ! profile imageAUTHOR

      Bail Up ! 

      9 years ago


      You are so right to say it is a tortorous ordeal for us but also the cancer patient. Writing about it does help although at first I didn't really want to as its such a gloom topic. I'm glad I did as the support from people like you has been overwhelming. Thank you so much.

      I'm truly sorry for your loss.

    • Bail Up ! profile imageAUTHOR

      Bail Up ! 

      9 years ago


      I appreciate your kind comment. Hospice is truly a blessing and Fortunately the one above knows what he does, hence the time you now have to make ammends. Wish you and your family peace throughout the process. Thanks for stopping in.

    • lovelypaper profile image

      Renee S 

      9 years ago from Virginia

      Losing someone to cancer is very hard and watching them suffer is the worst kind of torture. It helps to write about it as I did throughout my mothers short bout with cancer.

    • Storytellersrus profile image


      9 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      I am sorry it went so quickly for you. My fatherinlaw is also in hospice since November, but he has rallied and sometimes I wonder how we were so worried that he wouldn't survive Thanksgiving and yet he remains with us in fairly lucid shape! It has bee a blessing for me as I needed to make peace with this now mellow man who once was a bane to my existence. Hugs to you as you move into a world without his perspective and smiles.

    • Springboard profile image


      9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Glad to share. :)

    • Bail Up ! profile imageAUTHOR

      Bail Up ! 

      9 years ago


      What a tragic thing for a young person to have to go through. At least my father in law lived a long and good healthy life until the cancer struck. We are greatful for that. And towards the end, couldn't have done it without hospice. Thanks for your "on point" comment.

    • Springboard profile image


      9 years ago from Wisconsin

      My thoughts go out to you. This is never an easy thing for anyone to go through. Back in high school I remember I kid I went to school with, Frankie, had come back inside and headed for the restroom from a softball game outside. I happened to be in the hall and I noticed when he came out of the restroom he had a pale look on his face. "Not feeling well?" I asked him. "It's back," he said. "Back? What's back?"

      I can't remember what form of cancer it was, but apparently he had had a cancer problem when he was a younger kid and beat it. He went into the hospital and had emergency surgery only to find that he had cancer all over, much like in your father-in-law's case. He was dead three weeks later and I thought to myself how strange it was that he was a healthy teenage kid just weeks before, playing a game of softball, and less than a month later he was gone.

      My grandmother suffered Lou Gehrig's disease and that was horrible to watch as well.

      Hospice care, if for no other purpose, simply allows a person to be comfortable in those last days, and I think it serves more than that. It serves to allow the family to focus on the dying person rather than on their illness. It gives you more time to really say goodbye.

    • Bail Up ! profile imageAUTHOR

      Bail Up ! 

      9 years ago


      Amen. Everyday counts! Thank you for stopping in and reaffirming how I feel about Hospice care. Good to hear from you.

    • Bail Up ! profile imageAUTHOR

      Bail Up ! 

      9 years ago


      Thank you so for visiting and leaving your thoughtful comment. I'm glad others like you appreciate hospice's much needed and compassionate care. I hope to let others know as well.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      I cannot thank hospice workers enough for the wonderful work they do with the dying and their families. Thank you sharing this painful story. No one knows the number of their days. We should make each one count.

    • Truth From Truth profile image

      Truth From Truth 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for an important hub. My family was struck by illness also. The help and compassion shown to us by Hospice was priceless. It was unbearably hard as it was, so I can not even imagine going through it without the Hospice care. It is very considerate of you to write this hub, as it could help people that are in need of Hospice care. Thank you, and take care, I wish you and your family the best.

    • Bail Up ! profile imageAUTHOR

      Bail Up ! 

      9 years ago

      Thank you Ken.

      Dedicated people like yourself certainly help make this world a better place. I'm headed over to read that Hospice Story. Thanks you so much.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image

      Ken R. Abell 

      9 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thank you for sharing this here. It is a powerful & emotionally moving story.

      I served as hospice chaplain for seven years & have a colleage who is still actively involved. I wrote a hub of my experiences with one patient called "A Hospice Story".


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