What Does Hospice Mean to a 23-year-old?

Garden at Houston Hospice

I started working at Houston Hospice about a month ago. When I told my friends that I was interviewing for the position available here, their first reaction was, “You want to work at a hospice!? That sounds depressing.” For me to say that I didn’t think the same thing would be a lie. I had no idea what to expect because I’ve never been to a hospice before. I was familiar with death after losing many close friends and relatives, but I wasn’t used to death being accepted and peaceful.

 

A few years ago my grandpa died after fighting many years of being sick. He was over 90-years-old, had both legs amputated, and died weighing about 80 pounds in a nursing home bed. I’ve always struggled with this and wondered why we were trying to keep him alive. When he would be in hospital, he would talk to his mother, his father and siblings as if they were in the room. My grandma had passed away a year before and he seemed ready to be with her. The nursing home he stayed in was horribly depressing and it was hard for me to visit him.

 

Everyday at work, I wish my grandpa could have died in a place like this. The calm energy, the painted rooms and the warm staff would have made such a difference for my family and me. Working at a hospice has made me realize that death can be a peaceful process and not to fear it.

 

No 23-year-old wants to think about the possibility of dying because we feel our lives have just started. But when we can accept death and not fear it, then living is more valuable to us and the important things in life become apparent. Family and friends are put before money and possessions and the simple things rule over the extravagant things.

 

Working at a hospice is far from depressing—it’s an eye opener. Everyday you see bravery, love and peace. I feel lucky to witness these actions daily and to no longer fear death. And in a hectic world, it’s nice to see human compassion every day.

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ABC’s Beyond Belief, The Other Side

Wednesday night ABC aired an episode called The Other Side from their new summer series Primetime Nightline: Beyond Belief. In this episode, ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff interviewed people who have died and then come back to life. Woodruff has been curious about this topic since his own near-death experience in Iraq in 2006.

 

One of the most interesting parts of this episode was that three of the people Woodruff interviewed were from the Houston area. I thought this was interesting and their stories hit closer to home for me. Three of these hair-raising stories were from not only Americans, but Houstonians.

 

Woodruff interviewed people such as Rev. Don Piper of Pasadena from Pasadena who died for an hour and a half after a head on collision with an 18-wheeler in 1989. Piper wrote a book about his experience in heaven called 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life.

 

Other people interviewed from the Houston area included Erin Smith from Montgomery who was shot at age 17 and Houston therapist Mary Jo Rapini who suffered a brain aneurysm. Rapini has written a book called Is God Pink? Dying to Heal after she experienced a pinkish glow and heard God’s voice in her death experience.

 

Hearing these people’s stories was very touching and personal. Currently, I work at a hospice and death occurs almost every day. To hear stories from others who have witnessed peace after death is comforting for me. I’m sure this episode helped family members and close friends who have lost a loved one and are grieving. You can watch the full episode right here.

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The American Perception of Death

This photo was taken by jimmedia at www.flickr.com

Over the past 100 years, the word “death,” in American culture has almost become a politically incorrect term. Think about it. What do people usually say after a death? He is no longer with us. He has passed away. He is in a better place. Rarely, do you hear someone say, “he has died.” Why is this? Are we being sensitive to the subject, or have we become afraid of the word death?

 Different cultures and religions around the world have their own views about death. Most religions believe a spirit leaves the body after death and moves on to another place such as heaven or reincarnation. To acknowledge this act, most cultures have a strict ritual that takes place to insure the spirit has the appropriate journey to its final destination. 

Within the past 100 years, the process of how people live out their final days has changed. Before, loved ones would pass away in the comfort of their own homes and families. A couple of close family members were primary caregivers and they used their own medical cures and treatments rather than a doctor’s. The modern healthcare movement has placed more terminally ill patients in hospitals instead of the patients’ home.

 With the rise of hospices in the nation, it seems Americans are trying to learn how to accept death rather than defeat it. A hospice is designed to treat the patient, not the illness. This simple idea relieves a lot of stress from the patients and their families because the victory in a hospice is not beating the illness, but accepting it, along with the death that follows.

 Getting to the point of accepting and understanding death is something that can only be done through communication and education. Having someone close to share your emotions and beliefs about death without sparking a debate can help you become more comfortable with the subject. Also, educating yourself about cultures’ perspectives of death can help enrich your understanding and help bring closure.

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What Is Hospice Care?

Houston Hospice Staff

Houston Hospice Staff

When a patient with a severe illness decides that curative measures are no longer appropriate or effective, the option of hospice care is a compassionate, dignified and cost-effective end-of-life care option. When possible, the patient can receive treatment within his or her own home. The hospice team who visits the patient on a regular basis consists of a nurse, hospice aide, social worker, volunteer and chaplain. Staff physicians are consulted and are available when necessary.

 

The essence of Houston Hospice care is:

Following assessments in the areas of physical pain, emotional needs, spiritual issues, legal concerns and practical arrangements, the patient, family and physician approve a plan of care. Being involved in making the plan helps patients and families face the last stages of life more comfortably and confidently.

Patient care is provided by Houston Hospice in the home, in a nursing home or residential facility or in the Margaret Cullen Marshall Hospice Care Center which is located in the Texas Medical Center.

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When is Hospice an Appropriate Alternative?

Hospice care becomes an alternative when a patient has reached the last phases of a terminal illness and has been given a prognosis of six months or less.  The subject can be addressed at any time during the illness as physician and patient discuss treatment options.  When a patient chooses hospice, the decision to give up curative measures is made in favor of comfort care, focusing on pain management and symptom control, psychosocial support for both patient and family and ancillary services that lessen the burden of illness and care giving.

Please contact us or visit our web site  http://www.houstonhospice.org for more information.

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Houston Hospice 2011 Spirit Award Dinner Set for October 26

Kelli and Eddy Blanton

Kelli and Eddy Blanton

Kelli and Eddy Blanton are co-chairs for the upcoming Thirteenth Annual Spirit Award Dinner to be held Wednesday, October 26 at the River Oaks Country Club. The Blantons chair numerous events throughout the year and Houston Hospice is honored to have them lead us to another record breaking fundraising event. This is particularly special because the award is the Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award, named so for Eddy Blanton’s mother.

The Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award was created in 1999. Houston Hospice named the Community Spirit Award in honor and memory of Laura Lee Blanton who dedicated herself to making a difference in the community. The recipient(s) of this award support a wide range of community efforts through their energy, enthusiasm, time and resources. Past recipients are Jack S. Blanton, Janet and Ernie Cockrell, Dr. John P. McGovern, The Honorable and Mrs. James A. Baker, III, Dr. Richard E. Wainerdi, Mary and Tony Gracely, Connie Baird Linbeck, Harriet and Joe Foster, Jes and John Hagale, Margaret R. Caddy and Sarita and Bob Hixon.

This year’s Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award will be presented to Maureen and Jim Hackett. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to present this award to Maureen and Jim, who have not only been friends and supporters of Houston Hospice, but of the entire community,” remarks President & CEO Jim Faucett.

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