We had a patient who was very leery of her hospice team the first day we visited. She was concerned about the funding source of hospice and not sure she wanted to be part of a Medicare program. Her adult children had encouraged her to “try” hospice and see how it would go. The patient was also deeply religious. One of her sons was even a minister. Her hospice chaplain happened to be a Catholic sister. The chaplain explained to the patient that she was there to support patients and their families, no matter their beliefs, and there wouldn’t be any attempt to “convert” them. The patient still wasn’t sure about Hospice care. When the patient’s family convinced her, she began receiving Hospice care.
Over time, this frail, elderly woman was lovingly cared for by her devoted family, especially a daughter and son who were always present when hospice caregivers visited. Over months, a wonderful relationship developed between this patient, her children and the hospice team. We all began anticipatory grief when the patient, at the end of one visit, said, “I may not be here next week.” A week later she said the same thing and she began a steady decline. Hospice was able to keep her comfortable, and provide the equipment she now needed.
When she passed away, as she had predicted, hospice caregivers and family all grieved. At the grave-side service, the patient’s daughter mentioned to the hospice team they needed to stop by the house. She said there was something waiting for them there. A few days later when they visited, the son and daughter gave each hospice caregiver a “thank you” card. While she was living, the patient had her children pick out beautiful thank you cards for each of the caregivers and she shared her personal gratitude to each one.
“We each have been so touched by the loving spirit of this woman. Many hospice family members sincerely thank their hospice caregivers after the death of their loved one. However, in my 15 years in hospice, I had never had a patient thank me from the grave. We laugh and cry as we remember how leery she was on that first day and how she embraced us with love and gratitude so completely at the end of her life,” said Sister Susan Holmes, hospice chaplain.