Episode 13: Services Provided by Hospice
Most people have no idea of all of the services available to Hospice patients and their caregivers. In this episode, Mitch discusses these services and give you a better idea of how to maximize Hospice care for you and your family.
"Today, we're going to take a look at the many services provided by hospice organizations around the country, most of which you have probably no idea about. Huge hospice organizations have many more resources than a small, tiny rural one does, but there are some basics that they all provide. "
Hello and welcome to another episode of Living With Hospice. I'm your host, Mitch, where I'm a long term volunteer as well as an experienced client of several hospices. I'm not a doctor, a nurse. I'm not a social worker or a therapist, but I have years and years of firsthand experience with several hospice organizations, and I am a certified and vetted hospice volunteer. Today, we're going to take a look at the many services provided by hospice organizations around the country, most of which you have probably no idea about. I know I didn't until we engaged hospice for my son. If you have followed some of the previous episodes, you know what, the 11th hour fog? Geez. It's a term that we've coined here. For those of you who are new, let me explain what this term means when we get into a serious mindset like a medical emergency or some other form of major event. Our brains kind of click into a flight or fight mode and in our case is caregivers. Hopefully, it's the fight mode. We tend to close out most things around us and address the task at hand after weeks and months of this. Well, it takes a toll on us. We get fatigued. Our thought process isn't sharp any longer. And we're running pretty much on autopilot. Often, we lacked the energy to accomplish some of the lesser important, you know, little things we can get. Well, resentful, too. Tough word. But it kind of fits here. We get resentful as we tackle the big things that we need to do. This is what's called caregiver burnout. We cover this in depth in episode 11. Something we mentioned in that episode is getting respite time, sort of. Ah, time out. If you will, Um, a break. We also talk about getting assistance, getting help, and that is what we're going to cover today. How does hospice help you as a caregiver and help with palliative care for your loved one? When you work with hospice, you're not alone. There are many paid full time staff people, nurses, doctors, social workers, dietitians Um, let's see physical therapists all on board with you. And there is a literal army of trained, vetted and dedicated volunteers. Ready to help is Well, let's take a brief look. Att. All the service is that most hospices have to offer now a little time out here to clarify. Huge hospice organizations have many more resources than a small, tiny rural one does. But there are some basics that they all provide. For example, medicine management hospice staff not only develops a written plan for you to manage the medicines, they provide the medicines for you. Many people need a wheelchair or hospital bed as well as a I don't know some bathroom accessories, like the grab handles in the shower chairs. Equipment procurement is another thing. Your hospice will help get accomplished for you. That includes installment. Most of us want and need to talk to someone about our feelings. Talk about how to care for the feelings of the the rest of our loved ones. Sometimes we just get to a point where we don't know. We don't know what we don't know. It's a big journey. We're on. It's it's ah, sometimes seems like a black hole, and we're just going through the motions, and we have all these feelings building up inside of us. Well, there are therapists available to help come and talk with you as well as talk with a patient as well as talk with the rest of the family. Many of us are religious or have a strong faith, but we may not have our own minister. Hospice has chaplains who come by on a regular schedule to visit with the patient or the whole family if need be. They're committed to answering your questions about faith as well as encourage you. There are many other service Is that hospice offer? A lot of these are offered through volunteers. For example, the ones you see on the on TV or billboards are what we call visitor companions or friendly visitors. Depends on which hospice organization you're working with. These air volunteers that come to your loved one on a regular schedule and they visit with them. They engage your loved one and get to know them. As the relationship grows, they discover things in common and and develop a genuine friendship. Of course, there are bedside musicians, Some are instrumentalist and some play harps. Some play keyboards. I even know a guy who plays saxophone. There are violinists. One lady that played the flute Just beautiful. I sing and play acoustic guitar. Oh, and a few bedside musicians don't play an instrument there, vocalists and they sing a cappella. Or they may bring some recorded music with them and sing along with it. Kind of like bedside karaoke. A bedside musician typically comes to a patient's home, a room and play or seeing the patient's favorite songs. Many times, patients in assisted living facilities get live music in many of their group activities at the facility. But most of that music comes in the forms of hymns. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact, I have several patients that prefer hymns over anything else, and that's fine. But many wants something different. So I play songs from their high school or early adult era man. They love it. Music often touches the soul in ways nothing else can. It brings joy, peace and comfort. You can learn more about the hospice music service in my episode, titled So What's Music Got to Do with It? Another volunteer service you may have heard of is that of therapy dogs. There's something comforting about visits from our canine friends. I personally am a dog guy, even though I live with two cats and only one dog. But ah, I'm I know I'm a little biased here. True enough, but I see the joy and the peace that these animals bring. Two patients, men and women, young and old. There's something about these dogs that perk us up. They calm our spirits. Maybe it's those happy eyes and that big smile they give you. They seem to offer unconditional love, expecting nothing in return. Some hospice organizations offer therapy. Many horses. For those of you who may not be familiar with those many horses look well, like big horses. They've just been shrunk in the dryer. And, ah, they they walk. They act everything, just like a regular size horse. Well, that's because they're 100% horse. Because of their size, though, they're able to get into places where obviously the big boys can't, and more and more facilities air, accepting them as certified therapy animals. I recall a story where an elderly woman was in her final days in ah, in an assisted living facility. She was a sweet lady. Everyone loved her. She spent her whole life raising horses. She was a lady that was wth E four h horse or equine leader. She hosted a coin events at her ranch or farm. She's teaching various forms of horsemanship, all that right there on her farm, at her own expense. Her condition, unfortunately, was deteriorating, and she, well, was not long for this world. When a group of her former students paid her a visit instead of coming through the door, they tapped on her window. The visitors inside opened her window on her favorite horse, stuck his big go ahead through the window and nuzzled this woman. She smiled. Here, tears. Tears ran down her eyes. Now that's good medicine. Aside from therapy animals, hospice offers lots and lots of things. For example, when you're caregiving, it's hard to take care of laundry. It's hard to take care of a lot of the little things that well, quite frankly, they just get put aside. Hospice offers housecleaning and in house cleaning, these folks will do your laundry, even folded. Put it away if you'd like. Most hospices have a group of volunteers will come by on a regular basis in clean house. They just take that burden away from you. They're also volunteers who will do your shopping for you. You call in the order pay for it over the phone or online. However, your comfortable doing that and the volunteers will bring the groceries right into your pantry and put them away. There are also barbers and hair stylists. There's something special about having a fresh haircut or getting your hair styled and and done up really nice. They even will color your hair. There are also manicurist that will come to your home. They'll give you a nice pedicure, color your nails and lift your spirits by helping you feel beautiful. Have you heard about the historians and the personal story scribes? These are volunteers. Many of them are firmly visitors or companion visitors who will record your loved one's life story in your loved one's own voice. That's right. One of the most touching stories I ever heard was a story of a woman who raised five Children alone during the Depression. Her husband had gotten sick and passed away in 1929 she was left alone with this big family to take care of. If you remember your history, the Great Depression was a horrible time for for many, many Americans. The takeaway, though, was that you didn't have to have money or things to be rich. The story touches my heart every time I think of it. Can you imagine her great great grandchildren's reaction when they get to hear their great great grandmother telling the story of having to wait in line to get food here in America, that food was rationed. That isn't awesome. Gift to give to your to your legacy. And these great great grandchildren can hear in their own families voice this significant piece of history. And she goes on to talk about the advent of World War Two and how everybody saw it coming and how she was so afraid that her sons would have to serve. And they did. Unfortunately, they all came home. But that woman had an incredible life, you know, that's why they call him the Greatest Generation. They live through things that most of us will never even have to think about outside of history class. And she gave that gift to her family. What a wonderful thing to do. Some of the larger hospice organizations have service is like massage and Reekie. Thes massages tend to comfort sore and aching muscles, and Ricky well, for those who are not familiar with this. Ricky is a uh, See, I guess you'd call it a healing technique based on a principle that the therapist can channel energy into a patient by means of touch or near touch. That is to say, the energy then restores the body's physical and emotional well being. I've seen it, and I've been told that it really works. I'm not experienced it firsthand, but if it works for people, so be it. Special Respite Care's another volunteer driven service. Occasionally, a caregiver needs to get away for a day or two, or maybe just a morning or afternoon. Your hospice will assign a volunteer to come over and be with your loved one while you're gone. Like, um, a one time companion visitor call kind of thing. There's also an inpatient respite care service with many hospice organizations. This means your loved one can move into the inpatient care facility for up to I think it's five days. What happens is you the caregiver, get some much needed rest, knowing that you're loved, one isn't excellent hands and that your loved one is pretty much being pampered. It's a real win win. I know firsthand as we use the service with my son when we were on this journey with him. Some patients in hospice have ever changing meal requirements as diseases progress, Nutrition changes what people are hungry for changes and, quite frankly, that can create tension as well as stress. Most all hospices have someone on staff who will come to you and working together with you, develop a dietary plan that everyone can agree on. This is way more common than you think Some of the larger hospice organizations have Handyman service is thes air volunteers that will fix something that is broken and that is disrupting the caregivers ability to function properly, like a broken faucet or a toilet that won't stop running or broken doors. That there's a There's a myriad of different things that they can fix, and they do. So these people often get parts donated, by the way, so there's rarely any expense to you. Most hospice patients well, they just can't drive, and in some cases the caregivers can't drive either. So hospice has volunteers who are available to help you get to your appointments like the doctor, the dentist's, whatever in back on time, every hospice has their own core of volunteers and paid staff to work with. Obviously, like we said before, the larger hospices typically have more resource is than the smaller ones. But that doesn't mean that the smaller hospice can't help you with something that might be, well, something that they don't do on a regular basis, like the Handyman Service or the life story historian. It never hurts to ask, and most hospices, if they have any resource, is available at all. They're willing to be flexible and work with you. Remember, the commitment that hospices have is to their patients, their comfort in their well being. And these are the types of things outside the envelope, if you will, or outside the box, that hospice can rally around and help make your workload less. Some hospices offer what is called palliative chemo or palette of radiation care. And now this is This isn't curative care. This is a chemotherapy that doesn't cure, but it eases the symptoms a few other service is you'll find, with most hospices, our grief and bereavement counseling for the whole family, or maybe a large group of close friends, A trained and certified professional is available to come to you and your family and facilitate on your grief and bereavement journey. This service is well, I can't overstress how important this service really is. Grieving. The loss of your loved one is a life time process. For most of us, a healthy process is not something that comes naturally to any of us. Allow these professionals to help you and your family on this part of the journey. Next is something that nobody really wants to think about and that is planning. Memorial service is writing obituaries. Many hospice organizations will assist you in planning. Memorial service is. And if you don't have a regular minister, Ah, hospice chaplain is often available to step in, and there are others that will help you write an obituary. If you need that, here's something to think about. The many hospice service is that are available really depend on the patient and family needs. It also depends on the resource is of your particular hospice. The service is that your loved one receives can be adjusted as your patient needs evolve regardless of the size of hospice, you work with one more thing. Bigger is not always better help me say that again. Bigger is not always better. I know firsthand that some of the smaller hospice organizations are giving amazing care amazing care. So don't think you have to go to a big fancy building that houses a statewide hospice organization or regionally wide hospice organization. You can get what you need from the smaller guys to. I see it over and over again. This summer, I was entering a an assisted living facility, and I encountered a woman going the opposite direction. As I was entering the main door. She was exiting and she held the door for me because I have my guitar and my little iPad attache. And I noticed he had on a lanyard just like mine, and I greeted her and ask her if she was with nameless here X y Z Hospice. She said Yes, she was a visitor companion, like I'm a volunteer also, and she looked at my guitar case and asked if I played for all of my patients and I probably will, yes, I do. I'm a volunteer bedside musician. She smiled at me and said, Wow, I had no idea we even had such a thing. We need to get this word out. So now that you have heard of these things, ask your hospice for these types of service. Is cleaning handyman music anything that would fit your loved one's needs As we wrap up? I've saved one of our most meaningful service is for last. It's called the 11th Hour Service. We in hospice feel that nobody should have to die alone. Most hospices have specially trained people who will come sit with a hospice patient as a transition from this life to the next. If no one else is available, no other family, they know what to do. They know what to say. They know what to look for. They're dedicated to sharing comfort and love. For those who are passing on, this is way more common than you think. There was a gentleman not long ago who was in a VA hospital. He had Ah wow, He had cancer. He had COPD. Let's see. I think he had diabetes. Oh, and he was deaf. On top of all of that. He had no immediate family, nor did he list any next of kin. He was accepted in the hospice because his prognosis was six months or less. Ah, Hospice Volunteer was immediately assigned to him. Ah, younger woman who was a recent college graduate with a degree in aging management. I think it is in psychology or something very similar to that. As she befriended this gentleman over a period of weeks, he began to tell her his story. He was born in the hills of Tennessee. His family was literally dirt floor poor, but he had a wonderful memory of growing up there, playing with eight siblings, going to school, learning to smoke and drink at a very early age. When World War Two came about, he and his brothers all went to town and enlisted one in the Army, too, in the Navy, and he went to the Marine Corps. His four sisters stayed at home and took jobs, helping the war effort, knitting hats and gloves and scarves and sending notes to soldiers all around the world. As the guys were deployed, they lost track of one another, which was very common in wartime. It wasn't until after the war, and I don't know, somewhere in 1946 I guess that he discovered his one brother in the Navy was killed in the Battle of Midway. His other brother in the Navy was killed in the Battle of Guadalcanal. His brother in the Army was in the first wave on the beaches of Normandy, and he'd served with his fellow Marines in the Pacific Theater. He was part of the Marine effort at Okinawa, he told his hospice volunteer. There was very little elation among the exhausted Marines in southern Okinawa when the shooting stopped. You remember the photo of the guy is raising the flag. Those were Marines. Even at the official proclamation of victory, there was no joy, lots of relief, lots of numb feelings. The residual death throes of the Japanese 32nd Army kept the battlefield lethal. The Japanese frontline infantry may have died defending that ridge, but the remaining hodgepodge of support troops scattered all over the island sold their lives dearly to the last. He was wounded as he was heading up for the transport ship tow line up to head home alone. Japanese soldier had shot him in the leg and then turned his gun on himself. He went on to say, You know there really is no glory and war. No winners. Only losers don't believe what you see in the movies. It just depends on who loses the most as to who wins. He came home back to Tennessee. His four sisters filled with grief over the loss of his brother's help, nurse him back to health. As the years went on, he found a job. He moved away from the hills of Tennessee, actually coming North appeared to Michigan to work in the auto plants. He met a girl. He fell in love and started their happily ever after. Sadly, they couldn't have Children, so they adopted a beautiful little girl. As time went on, he retired from one of the Big Three automakers. His wife of 52 years passed away from breast cancer. He had had a falling out with his daughter, who now lives in, I Think, Oregon or Washington. Sick and dying, he laid in this bed at the V A. Ah, hospice volunteer had become family to him. With his permission, she'd recorded all of his stories too many dimension here, way too many, and as she was trained in the 11th hour care, she became his 11th hour anchor. She was there for her new friend when he passed over and because of her training from hospice, his legacy will live on for years and years and years. You see his stories being featured in a brand new project coming out next year on Cable TV, a program about America's greatest generation, how they lived in how they died. Call your hospice office or talk to your hospice social worker about all of these service's and see which ones would be a good fit for you and your loved one. I want to thank you for spending your time with me today. It's always a pleasure to share relevant information with you regarding hospice. If you have any questions or comments, please drop us a note at living with hospice at gmail dot com. That's living with hospice. All one word at gmail dot com Until next time. This is your host, Mitch, where have a blessed day