When a Hospice Worker has to Use Hospice

By Hilary Kramer


For the past five-and-a-half years, I have worked for a small hospice, in a community where everyone seems connected by some thread.  Hospice work is a very rewarding field; we often get to know one patient and family, and then later provide care for other family members who are referred to us.  This community seems to be getting a handle on what services are available and are utilizing that information in order to better deal with the process of death and dying. I am in awe of the way this community is connected to one another for the greater good.

Given my background, it should be easy for me to discuss the subject of death.  Some families never talk about death, as if it will never happen if we don’t say the words.  Others seem to talk about death as an “if.”… And still others seem to have an ongoing dialogue for years and discuss every aspect of an illness and funeral. I have found that everyone starts at a different point.  There is no wrong way to start a conversation, no matter where it begins.  It is my job to work from every starting point and help as if each person and family is starting from the beginning of the conversation and process of dying.


It seemed strange, then, that I found myself talking to my siblings about hospice for my father, who was 90, and dying from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.  He was diagnosed only six years ago, but thinking back there were signs before then that we chose to ignore, because my mother was the one caring for him on a daily basis.  My mother passed away quickly one morning, which left us to try to figure out what to do for dad, while grieving for her.  I flew to Florida, as did my two brothers, and began the daunting task of trying to figure out where to begin.



My mother and father began to discuss their wishes many years ago and filled out living wills.  Death was often a discussion topic for me and my mother, since she felt, that as the youngest child, I would have more difficulty with their deaths.  I knew everything they wanted and often thought that when the day would come, I would be able to put their wishes into motion.  While this is, in fact, what happened, it took all four of us to make the plans, confirming that no matter how prepared you are, it is still hard to let a loved one go.

My mother made things very easy by having all of the paper work in one place.  Once her affairs were in order, we put into works a plan for my dad, who was not able to be by himself.  I called a hospice to evaluate my dad and at the same time engaged 24-hour caregivers.  At the time, my father was able to walk two miles a day and yet, had no idea who we were.  He seemed to know that my mother was gone, and often asked where his mother was.  The hospice felt that he was appropriate, except for the fact that he could walk, which made him ineligible under the Hospice criteria in Florida.  So, the caregivers and my sister had the responsibility of his care.

Over a two-month period, my father stopped eating and began to decline rapidly. It was thought that my mother’s absence was too much and she was calling him in some way. We called hospice again. This time, they admitted him and began giving their wonderful care to my father and our family.  Five days later, my father died in his own home with my sister and caregiver next to him.

For the second time in only a two-month period of time, we were brought together for the death of a parent.  We cried and laughed about everything and knew that the hardest times were to come when we were in our own homes with our families. 

Months have passed and I regret only that we didn’t call hospice sooner the second time.  I know that we supported each other in a way that my parents would have wanted.  I still have difficult periods of time, but I count on my family and co-workers for support.  I suppose I am lucky to be around so many wonderful and caring people, who extend themselves everyday to be a part of others’ families, if only for a short period of time. 


Written by robots= on August 1st, 2011 at
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