The death of a parent is one of the most significant and emotional events a person can go through in their life. Many times terminally ill patients are put on hospice and with it comes a knot of emotions and questions.
If you don’t know what hospice is, let me explain. It is basically when a person is terminally ill, they will be assisted with either inpatient care or at home care to support them while they pass away. It is usually supplied once there is no longer any medical or surgical remedies.
Hospice is different for each person, but it is usually in the form of care takers who come to make the transition as comfortable as possible. Hospice can be in the hospital and short, or it can be at home and cover a number of months.
I am writing this from my experience with the case of a loved one who was sent home to, in blunt terms, to die. My father in law was put on hospice in our home and it lasted about 4 months. He was completely cognitive of the whole process and I am writing from this perspective.
My father in law, also called Grandpa Joe in our family, had congestive heart failure and the doctors said there was nothing more they could do, so they put him on hospice and sent him home. My father in law was relieved because he hated hospitals and definitely did not want to die there.
Please note my father in law was a crotchety old man whom I had never had much of a relationship with but we went home to wait out the inevitable and this is what I learned from the experience.
1. Ask the hard questions. I am so glad we did this with my father in law. We talked about his will, his money, his assets, his possessions. We talked about how he wanted to be buried, if he wanted a funeral, who he wanted to be there. He told me about an insurance policy that I didn’t know existed and he signed the do not resuscitate papers per his wishes. This was hard for my husband to do because it was so impersonal and business like, but I knew it was important for many reasons. My father in law got a chance to decide many options and his decisions were important. So ask the hard questions.S
2. Don’t cry all the time. I know it is hard to lose a parent. You want to cry every time you see them, but don’t. You can cry once or twice but after that, don’t. Your loved one wants to talk with you, visit with you, love you, not watch you babble incoherently for the time you have together. Cry before you see them. Cry after you see them. In between, while you are actually with them, suck it up, for them. They don’t want to watch you cry uncontrollable for hours, they want to visit with you. This is their time, remember that and be strong. Fall apart after they are gone.
3. Bring children to visit. Some families want to spare their children the heart ache of seeing their favorite relative dying. Don’t do this. Children are resilient and strong. They can handle it and they want to be a part of what is going on. They might be a little shocked at first at the sight of their sick loved one, but they will follow your lead. It is important for all to say good-bye and spend time together. It is important plus children always bring a light heartedness to every somber occasion. They know how to put things in perspective. My children would go down every day and visit Grandpa Joe. They would jump on his bed and steal his M&M’s. He loved it and I am sure it was the best part of his day.
4. Talk about the good ole days. Bring out the photo albums, run the old 8mm films, talk about the good old days. Remember when…Reminiscing about great memories is cathartic and brings a smile to their face. They love it. It might seem cliché but it always brought a smile to my father in laws face. I would pull out the old photo album and ask questions and he would ramble on for hours. I would sit and listen, imagining the memories he would describe. We would laugh about the antics he would pull, I would sigh at the loves he had lost, I would gasp at the close calls he had escaped. I would leave him with a big grin on his face as the dosed off to sleep, dreaming about times too precious not to forget.
5. Just be there. There were times I would go to his room and he was not in the mood for talking. He would not be feeling good and I would just be there. I would just be there to make him a sandwich or get him a glass of water. I would just be there to let him know he was not alone. I would just be there to hold his hand. Sometimes we just sat, in silence, and that was okay because he knew he was not alone. I know that was a comfort to him because he told me. And I am glad for that.
In the end, he died in the hospital with my husband, his son, and his daughter by his side. I feel good about the 4 months I was there for him while he made the transition. I am glad I was there. I hope you can take what I learned and this will make your journey a little easier.