Living with Dying: Let’s talk (some more) about hospice

Editor’s note: This column is provided by the End of Life Care Partnership that has been operating here in Addison County for eight years. Its mission is “to create a framework for our organizations to collaborate on our common goal of providing education about dying, death and options for care.”
This column will work if we get questions from you, our readers. We want to hear from you, what is on your mind and heart regarding this challenging issue that each of us will need to address in our lives? Send your questions to [email protected].
“Enrolling in Hospice when you have a life-limiting or terminal illness makes it possible for both patient and caregiver to gain medical and nursing help as well as essential emotional support. Working with us in a mutual, respectful way, our Hospice nurse set up a flexible, effective treatment plan for my husband, and I no longer had to try to be Florence Nightingale. Instead, my husband and I were able to focus on the quality of life and comfort and peace that each day brought us. “
— Andrea Perham, Middlebury
Last month our column covered a definition of hospice and addressed a couple of common myths about the program. This month we cover two additional myths:
Myth #3
“Going onto Hospice means giving up my privacy and having strangers judging how I live.”
When you enroll in hospice, meeting your physical, emotional and spiritual needs in a familiar setting is the goal. Your team of providers will have specialized training in identifying your unique values, and in providing care that helps you live as well as you can on your terms. A variety of therapies may be offered, but you will decide which ones are right for you. One of the many benefits of enrolling in hospice when you have months to live is that there will be time for you and your team to get to know each other well and to deepen understanding of your priorities.
It’s normal for people to be nervous about having people they don’t know in their personal space at such a tender time. Individuals who work in Hospice have visited hundreds of homes across Addison County. These care providers are well aware of the diversity of circumstances in which we live. Hospice teams understand that it is a privilege to be invited into a person’s home and will respect your home, your privacy and your dignity.
Myth # 4
“When you sign onto Hospice, it means giving up hope.”
Birth and death are natural parts of our life cycle. In between these transitions, most people want to live as long and as well as possible. When diagnosed with a terminal illness, most people hope for a cure. There is nothing wrong with that! It’s crucial to remember that hope is much more powerful than any disease, and there is always more hope to be found if we are willing look for it. If you limit yourself to only one hope, you may miss the opportunity to spend time and energy on what matters most to you. Hope can literally transform the experience of dying. Hospice is about embracing hope. Hospice teams are specially trained to help bring to life your other hopes: sharing memories with family, having your pain well managed, completing personal goals, having a peaceful death, and more. There is no end to hope.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all.
-Emily Dickinson

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