Voices of Hospice: Personal Stories of Connection
It is a profound and humbling privilege to serve those who are facing the final chapters of their lives, offering solace and support during a time of immense vulnerability. Our Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care staff is comprised of individuals who have dedicated their lives to this noble calling, and they carry with them a wealth of poignant and meaningful experiences.
Today, we share hospice stories from three of our teammates who have shaped their perspectives on life, and death through the profound impact of human connection. Through their narratives, we hope to shed light on the incredible work they do and the profound moments they have shared with our patients and their families.
Ms. J always told me during bath time that when it’s her time to go be with Jesus, to make sure her body was clean and no hairs under her chin!
Well, the time came for Ms. J to go be with Jesus. Ms. J wasn’t on my schedule to visit the day she was put on EvenMore Care. However, I went anyway to make sure her body was clean. As I walked into Ms. J’s room, I noticed she had no family at bedside and appeared disheveled as she moaned out. I instantly reported this to the facility HHA (home health aide) to see if Ms. J had been bathed. The HHA responded no, she hadn’t gotten to her yet. I told the HHA I would bathe her if that was okay.
I proceeded to bathe Ms. J. I made sure no hairs were under her chin, changed her sheets, and repositioned her. As I bathed Ms. J, I silently reminisced about the times she bathed and struggled to breathe. Although bath time was often a struggle, she was always pleasant and spoke about going home to be with God. Almost immediately after I finished bathing Ms. J, the chaplain from Crossroads walked in and asked if he could read scripture to her. With no warning, the room became still and the brightest light entered from the window while the chaplain read Psalms 23. I looked towards the light in disbelief. Ms. J had tears streaming down her face as she smiled and took her last breath!
At that moment, Ms. J was able to breathe again on the other side. I am now a chaplain with Crossroads, but I will always remember my time as an HHA with Crossroads and Ms. J!
I am an STNA (State Tested Nursing Assistant). I took care of a patient who had an LVAD [a left ventricular assist device] for a little over two years. He started at home and as his disease progressed, he went to a facility. He decided he had enough and wanted to turn his machine off. He knew what it meant if he would. He had a long-time girlfriend that cared for him. Due to rules and regulations, she had to be the one to turn the machine off.
He always looked forward to my visit and would call me if I was late just to make sure I was okay and still coming. At the end of each visit, he would always say, “Thanks, hun! See ya on Tuesday/Friday!” (his normal visit days). At my last routine visit, he told me the day he was planning to have the machine turned off.
At the end of this visit, he gave me a hug and said, “Thank you for everything.” I called his girlfriend and asked if I could be there when they turned his machine off. She said, “Absolutely. I'm sure he would appreciate that.” The day of, I arrived at the facility and saw him talking to a friend. He looked stressed and scared. I stepped in and said, “Hey, CP.” He gave me his signature brow scrunch. “You think I wouldn't be here to support you and her (his girlfriend) through this?”
He smiled and squeezed my hand. He seemed to physically relax some. He passed almost immediately after the machine was turned off. I was in the room, standing behind his girlfriend when everything happened.
Being there was extremely hard and I debated it, not knowing how I would handle it. I have seen death with this job but not a situation like this. I knew deep down that both of them would need the support to be able to do this. Seeing the relief on his face when I entered the room, I knew I did the right thing.
This entire situation changed my view on the type of support I could offer families at the end of life. I know we offer physical support and active listening but the bond we can form with our patients and families can also be a very useful asset at the end of life. With this bond, sometimes just being there at the end is more comfort than any spoken word could ever give.
On the Wings of a Snow White Dove
I had been taking care of a young patient – only 21. He lived in a group home. It was Christmas Eve and we were all standing around singing Christmas songs. I knew we were down to the final hours. His mom and dad were bedside. His dad kept saying "Hang on, please."
We managed to get him from bed to the front room to see all the Christmas lights. Dad left for a few minutes to let the dogs out. The song "Wings of a Dove" came on, and while we were singing, our young patient took his last breath. The mother was so thankful that dad had left as he couldn’t bear it. And to me, that song was a simple sign that he made it to heaven.
Caring for hospice patients at end of life is a special calling. To learn more about the care Crossroads provides to terminally ill patients, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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