Happy Thanksgiving

I’ve shared this before- but in honor of Thanksgiving, want to share it again. A letter from a client:

Dear Friends,

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I feel compelled to share a heartfelt message to give thanks to all of you. Home healthhospice and private duty providers perform miracles for the patients and families they serve, and I can personally attest to the incredible gift that your programs provide every single day.

In my last e-newsletter, in early October, I shared that my father-in-law (he was really my own dad, as we “adopted” each other 15+ years ago) was admitted into hospice with stage 4 colorectal cancer.  He had been diagnosed on September 4, 2008 – his first grandbaby’s birthday (my daughter).  This last year had been a process of acceptance, gratitude, joy, and sadness as we tried to live every day to the fullest while preparing for the eventual goodbye. After a courageous battle, my dad passed away on October 25, 2009. He was buried on November 13th at the Tahoma National Cemetery with full military honors for his brave service as a Navy Medic with the Marines in Vietnam. Then, we celebrated his incredible life – he was honored for his work as a serial entrepreneur, husband of 40 years, “world’s best dad” and grandpa.  I have never been more proud of “Big Mike” than I was on that day.

Over the last year, I intimately witnessed the entire home health and hospice process from start to finish. Although I do this for a living, it is different when it is your mother, father, sister, child in need of assistance; when you are the patient/family as opposed to the agency.  The perspective gained was incredible, as physical therapists helped preserve dad’s ability to walk when the tumor in his brain made it increasingly difficult to move around.  The palliative care program managed his pain while he was in between home health and the willingness to accept hospice. The hospice social worker brought resources, suggestions and compassion as she helped our family come to terms with the realities that we were facing. Once dad accepted hospice, his nurses provided state of the art care and ensured that he was comfortable as the cancer progressed.

While the home health and hospice organizations delivered exceptional care, I must say that the greatest miracle came in the form of a few special private duty caregivers who joined our family in the last few weeks of my dad’s life.  When dad’s cognitive function significantly declined, and he had a couple of falls because of it, we realized that it was time for more intensive care.  We had less than 48 hours to hire a live-in caregiver who would be capable of working in partnership with hospice.  Immediately, I called on a friend/former client for help.  Just two years before, I worked with him on the launch his private duty business. Now, the tables had turned and I was his client.  I was blessed with the opportunity to experience him delivering beautifully on the promise of incomparable service. Capability Home Care provided us with top notch caregivers who possessed the personal and professional skills required to care for a complex patient at the end of life.  The caregivers rotated in and out – a few days on and a few days off – to prevent “burnout” in this intensive time.  While the care was outstanding, I must say that it was indeed their empathy that made all the difference in the end. Allow me to explain…

On the day dad died, he was draped in a woven blanket depicting his favorite picture – grandpa kissing his beloved grand-daughter Caitlyn.  She was his pride and joy, and he loved her more than anything.  After he passed, and our family had a chance to say goodbye, the private duty caregiver helped the funeral home prepare his body.  As he was wheeled out of the house, the entire family gathered around only to find the most amazing gift from Emily (dad’s caregiver). She had wrapped his body in the cherished blanked with the picture of his granddaughter literally enveloping him.  It was at this moment that the miracle of home health, hospice and private duty became clear – it was pure empathy. Emily knew exactly what to do – not because she had been told to do so, but because it was simply what the moment required of her.  We later learned that Emily had lost her 7 month old baby just three months before.  My goodness, I can’t even imagine…but she knew exactly what we all needed because she had experienced a profound loss in her life.  Emily was our angel on that day.

Although many members of my family have benefited from hospice – grandparents, god parents, and others – it wasn’t until I helped my dad through the hospice process that I really gained the depth of perspective that I have now.  It is an exclusive club in our society – those of us that have helped someone pass on.  Amazingly, though, ask any room of home health and hospice professionals if they have helped someone transition to the other side and nearly everyone will raise their hand.

Today, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I want to share with all of you that this experience has deepened my passion for home health, hospice and private duty in a way that I never could have imagined.  I remain a fierce advocate for what we do!  But more importantly, I genuinely want to convey my profound gratitude to each and every one of you. Words cannot express my true feelings other than to say a very humble thank you on behalf of Big Mike (dad) and my entire family.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Heather

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