The last few weeks of last year and the first week of this year were spent with my dad in hospice. He had a diagnosis that he would not never recover from- Cancer- It finally won and we lost him on January 5th. But during the time he was at Hospice I wondered to myself do people really know what to do for families with loved ones in hospice care. If you are unaware of what Hospice care, it is end-of-life care. The goal of the care is to help people who are dying have peace, comfort, and dignity.
After a few weeks of wrestling with this post, I decided to write it. If this posts helps to comfort one family than I have done the job that I set out to do. Please remember that the most important thing when visiting a hospice is to be respectful of the others that are there and to be aware that you might not be able to visit the patient be you can still be there for the family. The first week my dad was in hospice, he loved visitors. But as the end became closer, visitors were restricted to just immediate family and my dad’s pastor. In fact my mom, my sisters and the two oldest grandchildren surrounded my dad in his last moments as he slowly slipped away from us and went to eat ice cream with my beautiful sister Karen who we also lost to cancer almost 20 years ago. So the point of this post is to inform you if you are ever in the situation of knowing someone in hospice care what you can do for the family and the patient. Here are four things that meant so much for my family that I wanted to share.
- Bring food. Although we didn’t have much of an appetite we still needed to eat. It was one less thing that we had to worry about and we did not have to worry about leaving my dad to send someone out to get meals. Most hospice facilities have dining and family rooms for families to sit together and eat. One of the sweetest things was when a friend from about an hour away brought us food and sat with us the first night my dad was admitted to the hospice center. This friend was someone who I had went to high school with and she knew firsthand the toil cancer can take. We were also blessed by having neighbors and members of the Veterans Organization that my dad belonged to bring us dinner as well.
- Visit. Even if the patient isn’t accepting visitors you can still be there for the family. The best thing for us is when friends and family would stop by and visit occupying our time and making sure that we were okay. All the visitors really warmed our hearts and showed us how well loved my dad was and how well thought of he was in the community. Even if you haven’t spoken to the family in years you can still be there for from them. One of my high school friends that I had just reconnected with came to visit all the way from Belize. Well not really because she was visiting family in our hometown but she still came to visit. Another visit that meant a lot to me personally was from a friend who we dearly love and who has seen my girls grow up and they called her Grandma Carol. That visit and the visit at the funeral home meant more to me than she probably knows. Also I would be remiss if I did not mention all of my dad’s Marine Corps League buddies.
- Pray. Be there to pray and sit with the family. Even though it is a sad time for the family, knowing that someone is there for them to help support them and pray with them is somehow a comfort.
- Lastly, just be there. (No matter what just your presence will mean a lot to the family.) And don’t ask if there anything I can do for you, just do something, I promise you that your kindness will not go unnoticed.
Although these 4 things may not seem like a lot these gestures will go a long way with the family. I know it went a long way with mine.