When someone we love is terminally ill, it is, of course, extremely stressful. The most difficult challenge is often an unexpected one.
Many people find it challenging to interact with anyone who is very sick, and most are surprised to discover that this interaction can be almost impossibly stressful if the dying person is someone they love.
Interacting with a terminally ill loved one is not the only unique challenge facing friends and family. Most people also want to be as helpful as possible. The problem is that most of us don’t really know what to do. We don’t know how to help.
On a medical front, if the person who is ill is hospitalized or in a nursing home, it seems as if there is little for family members to do. The medical professionals dealing with the sick person have protocols and routines which, of necessity, don’t leave much practical care-giving undone. Family members and loved ones can find themselves in the uncomfortable position of sitting in a busy hospital or nursing home with nothing to do but stare at someone they love, feeling helpless and empty.
And even more challenging are the times when a terminally ill person may be living alone or with a family member who is also not well.
Helping to deal with all of this difficulty is HospiceCare in The Berkshires, Inc.
Recently, my mother-in-law passed away. Jean’s Mom, affectionately known as Cookie, was incapacitated by a stroke and Alzheimer’s. She had lived in a nursing home for years. Jean’s late Dad had also been an Alzheimer’s patient, and had also been a nursing home resident.
Jean visited both her Dad and Mom regularly over the years, seeing that their needs were fully met, and providing them with companionship and news about distant family members. As her Dad, and then a few years later, her Mom, slipped into the final stages of Alzheimer’s, she personally encountered the wonderful work of HospiceCare.
Jean had become an experienced observer of nursing home life and was fully aware of the natural processes which occur in the places where final care is given. By the time her Dad passed away, she was also fully familiar with an Alzheimer treatment unit, a place where sometimes extreme aspects of the human condition are dealt with on an everyday basis. Yet when the time came for her to deal with her own father’s passing, she welcomed the help and guidance offered by HospiceCare workers.
And later, when her Mom passed away, HospiceCare was even more welcome. Cookie struggled in that halfway place between life and death for days, and there was little for family members to do to help their frail, elderly mother and grandmother. But when HospiceCare became involved, it helped lift that burden of helplessness.
When her mother’s condition worsened, the relief in Jean’s voice and face was visible after she decided to reach out to HospiceCare. As they became involved with her mother, she mentioned often that she was especially grateful for the gentle, respectful and loving care they provided.
Not only does HospiceCare help family and loved ones up until the moment of the ill person’s passing, they stay involved, as needed, well after the funeral. Jean received more than one follow-up call from the organization offering bereavement counseling.
HospiceCare in The Berkshires, Inc. is a non-profit member of Berkshire Healthcare. Its services are paid for either by Medicare or Medicaid or private insurance. Its web page is www.hcib.org. Your medical provider is certainly familiar with the organization and knows how to contact it for you.
In this cynical, high speed, big dollar world, it’s always a heartwarming surprise to find a place where good people do good things. HospiceCare of The Berkshires, Inc. is one of those places.
Bill Donovan writes regularly for The Advocate. Feedback is welcome at email@example.com.