My life was never the same after my mom had hospice at home for seven weeks before she died in 2015. Not only did hospice give me and my family precious time with my mom, but it helped me realize my true calling in hospice nursing. A winding path brought me to Care Dimensions, where I am an admissions nurse and raising funds for my first Walk for Hospice.
My mom, Anne Thomson, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2014, and she put up a good fight for 18 months. When she learned that treatments likely would not be effective, she chose hospice at her home in Connecticut.
For those seven weeks, we spent lot of time in her room hanging out and remembering so many good times. We got to do a lot of life review. We set up a digital picture frame in her room and talked about the memories that old photos stirred up. She welcomed all seven grandchildren to her room for a bed party and they had fun dressing up in her clothes and jewelry. Hospice made it possible for us to have moments like that. It was so important for the kids. They were close to my mom and she wanted to be with them.
Those weeks were so special for me. I am a caretaker by nature, and my kids were small when Mom was on hospice. During Mom’s illness, I was sometimes overwhelmed taking care of my babies and making sure that my mom was also getting everything that she needed. The hospice team took some of the burden off me and I was able to be Mom’s daughter.
People often think hospice is so dark, but it wasn’t like that for us. We got to have so many meaningful moments with Mom; and it brought us peace knowing she was experiencing the end of life in a way that brought comfort to her. She always was so beautiful and put together, so I knew it was important for her to still feel human even when her body was failing her. I helped paint her nails and the hospice aides ensured she was clean and comfortable.
It was an eye-opening experience that planted a seed for me.
After my mom died, I decided to leave my job in the financial sector and go to nursing school. I saw how important hospice was for patients and their families, and I wanted to become a hospice nurse. I needed experience, however, and went to work in an acute care hospital for several years.
I was at the hospital when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and for a year I cared only for COVID-19 patients. Patients were suffering and their families couldn’t be with them. I did my best to provide comfort to the patients and advocate on behalf of the families. It was hard but meaningful work.
At the same time, I developed relationships with Care Dimensions admissions liaisons who worked out of the hospital. I quickly learned that our hospital patients who transitioned to hospice with Care Dimensions would receive the best possible end-of-life care. In May of 2021, one of the liaisons told me about an opening on the Admissions team, so I applied and now am helping patients and families benefit from hospice, which I know can make a difficult time much easier.
My job as a hospice admissions RN is to educate people with advanced illness, and their families, that by choosing hospice with Care Dimensions, this last season of life can be much less frightening. A lot of what I do is calming people’s fears because they do not fully understand how hospice can help; we enable and empower patients to participate in their vision for the end of life during a time when it may feel they are having to give up control. As the daughter of a former hospice patient, I can tell them from my heart that hospice can give you so many great moments and make the caregiver’s job easier. Although difficult, it is a special time and everyone in the family can benefit from it.
After I complete an admission, I know the hospice team I’m handing the patient and family off to is going to have all the necessary resources and some extra ones. Every patient has access to an interdisciplinary team that can tailor hospice services to the individual’s and family’s needs. Care Dimensions also offers services such as massage therapy, music therapy, and even a Family Fund to help with household expenses and social needs. For example, one of our patients who lived alone and was feeling isolated and depressed used the Family Fund to obtain an iPad, which allows her to keep engaged with others and to enjoy playing games. She could not have bought or set it up on her own and was so happy to receive it. These “extras” are not reimbursed by Medicare or insurance and are an investment by Care Dimensions made possible through community philanthropy.
The time a person is receiving hospice care is such a vulnerable one for everyone concerned. To have extra help available because I and other supporters walked for a cause that is so important to us is awesome. I hope you will join me in supporting the Walk for Hospice.
About the author
Alice Thomson, RN, a hospice admissions liaison nurse for Care Dimensions.
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Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.