Saying Farewell: Healthcare Facilities Help Families Say Goodbye

Handle with Care!

You see that couch in the corner by the window? I have sat on it watching my loved one in end stage Cancer and battling for their life. The loved one? My mother-in-law. Yes, I did say it, my mother-in-law. My relationship with her wasn’t always easy, but my Mom died when I was young, so my mother-in-law was the role model I had for a lot of years across all kinds of skills.

It was a very hard decision for the family to choose to put her in a Hospice House. My father-in-law had passed away just four months before we made the call to move her to the best Hospice house in the area. It was good because I worked in Health Care as an E.R. Manager, and the location was right down the street from one of the hospitals I managed. I was able to check in on her more regularly than my other family members.

It was a hard decision for several reasons. One of the main ones was that families have to be careful about the services provided by Hospice staff. Many Hospice workers went into that line of work because they care about people, but under-staffing, low pay, and too many patients turns quite a few into people that are jaded by the system. Its not that they don’t care, but it simply becomes a grind of a job. Due to this, families that want to ensure their loved ones are treated with dignity and taken care of have to stay on top of their care.

When we took Mom to this place, I let them know, nicely, that I worked for the health system right down the street as an E.R. Manager, and so would be checking in often to make sure Mom was doing good. Knowing family is going to be around a lot can be a very practical way of loved ones being taken care of properly. Knowing the facility is being watched by a fellow health care professional also is an incentive. Why? Well, if we had a bad experience with them, or Mom wasn’t being taken care of right, I would be more likely to pass that news on to those I work with, and it might mean loss of patients. Its a reputation thing among those in healthcare.

Having said all this, I want to share our experiences with this particular place. Our nurses were top notch. I don’t feel it was just because we set the bar, and they knew we were going to be around a lot. Those gals seemed to really care about the patients. I watched them with Mom, but I also observed their interaction with other patients peripherally, and with other families. Even though they knew they were working with patients who were not going to leave the house alive, they still treated them with dignity, and kindness. We only ever had one problem with care in the month Mom was there, and we shared it with the director, and it was resolved right away. Additionally the billing was taken care of with minimal fuss. I had to go back once to address a double bill on something, but it was fixed right away. The insurance had bumped it back to us as not covered, and when I determined it was a double billed item, which of course the insurance company isn’t going to pay, I took it to the Hospice House and they cleaned up the billing. It was a stress relief for my husband and sister-in-law because I am a trained medical biller and coder.

When we first took Mom to the Hospice House, we were guarded, unsure what to expect, and whether we were making the right decision. Live in health homes have a bad reputation. Much of it is justified. It is hard to find any place that has no negative feedback against them at all. The goal for most people needing to use their services is to find the best of the lot. We did our research that way, reading reviews online, talking extensively with the staff, and even tapping into social media with extended family and friends to see if they had personal experience with the facilities in the area. I tapped into my work friends as well to ask the same questions. Knowing who we would be entrusting Mom’s care to was very important. Her care had exceeded our physical ability to meet, but we wanted to make sure those taking care of her would really do a great job.

We invested a lot of time in finding the right place, building relationships with the people who worked in the house across all the shifts, and then being physically there in Mom’s last days. We sat with her as Christmas approached. We recounted memories, sang songs, and looked through pictures. We remembered with her the measure of her life. We weren’t ready to say goodbye, but that is what we were doing. The health care professionals in the hospice house Mom was in made that process so much easier with their loving hearts, kind words, and quiet care. They helped us put up decorations, and make her room as friendly a space as possible given the circumstances. I knew taking care of someone in the end stages of their life would require a team effort, but I was not expecting that to include a team of people at an unfamiliar place, especially to Mom. I think the biggest element is that in the time she was with us that last month, she never expressed any kind of fear at being in that place. Their goal was to make her as comfortable as possible, and to build a trusting relationship with her. That is when you know the health care team gets how important people are, and are the ones worth trusting our loved ones with.

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