Its Halloween weekend, a time where people seek scary thrills. The streets and bars will be filled with kids and adults in costumes varying from cute animals and Disney princesses to zombies, witches, ghosts and devils. On Halloween, scary is fun. But the truly frightening things in life are those we don’t understand or can’t control. Death and dying are at the top of the list. Because of its close association with death and dying, hospice can seem scary too. Those that understand what hospice is know there is nothing to fear and much to embrace.
The horror stories of hospice being a “silent killer” simply are not true—at least not where I work. For two years now I have worked in a hospice facility with an amazing team of dedicated skilled professionals. This year alone that team has helped 500 families through their end-of-life journeys with loved ones. Each patient has received compassionate and personalized care. They are asked about their preferences for everything from activities and pain and symptom management, to visitors and food. They are asked about their goals for their remaining time and the hospice team works diligently to help achieve those goals. They are offered visits from cuddly therapy pets, spa treatments, fresh flowers, and home cooked meals made to order.
Our hospice team is bringing comfort to the ill and their families. These professionals are offering relief, support, encouragement, respect and dignity to people at a vulnerable time in their lives. There are tears at times, but there are also many smiles, hugs, and much laughter. There is a special joy that comes from simply focusing on being with those you love. Some people experience this joy for the first time through hospice. I know this because they tell me their stories and time and time again they say hospice has been “the most beautiful experience” of their lives.
Hospice is about honoring choices and maximizing quality of life. It’s beautiful; not scary.
Angelia Neumann is the director of development and communication at Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice in Sheboygan Falls, WI.