Hospice – A Family’s Perspective

March 8, 2018

Highlight on SMH Hospice Program from A Family’s Perspective

I’m Susette St. John and many of you know me as Dr. Mooi’s office nurse.  You may not know that for a short while this past year, I was also a caregiver using our hospice services for my dad.  I’ve worked here a long time and thought I knew our different departments.  LOL, was I wrong!

My dad, Sonny Minor, was always a very happy person but at 94 years old it was getting difficult for him to do anything for himself.  He was able to stay at home with our help and that of VA services for some time.  He did well with someone coming in at night and throughout the day because he couldn’t get in and out of bed by himself.  Dad started going downhill over a three month period.  When we took him to the ER, he was hospitalized.  Tests showed he had cancer in his lungs and liver.  As a family we made the decision to take him back to his home and use hospice to help us.

The nurses were great meeting us at the house when we got Dad home.  He sat up in his chair for about a half an hour and then went to his bed which he would never leave.  Little did we know it was only going to be five days.  With myself and my sister Gwen being nurses and my sister-in-law Sally being a CNA, I guess we thought there wasn’t a lot for us to learn.  Wrong!

Lori was his primary nurse and she was fabulous.  We were given pain meds with instructions which she explained in full detail.  We were given a note book to write down when we gave him meds and anything else we wanted other caregivers to know.  What a great idea!  I’ve written these scripts as a clinic nurse many times, but never dispensed them.  Dad being comfortable was the number one priority for our entire family.  Yet, as a nurse, I was conflicted about giving too much pain medication.  Lori really taught us how the medication worked and I could feel good about increasing it when Dad needed more.

Sonny pictured with his children.

We had aides coming in each morning to bathe him.  One of his children was there 24/7 and we had all cleaned him up lots of times, but it sure was appreciated to have an aide take this over so we could relax and just be with Dad.  As Dad declined over the next few days, the nurses were always available to explain what was happening and how we could handle it.  I felt bad not giving him liquids because I thought he was thirsty and the nurses reminded me of aspiration and how the systems normally shut down when a body is dying.  Of course, we knew all of that, but when it’s your loved one, you react with emotion and feel bad.

It was a totally different experience being on the other side!  We weren’t made to feel we should know it all.  We were treated respectfully as the family of a patient.  Carmen came when Dad passed and she was very professional.  She took care of cleaning Dad up and I was so happy to see him look like he was just resting.

My dad’s time on Hospice was brief, but now I understand that hospice can be of even more benefit the earlier someone chooses it.  The whole team from Carole, to Lori, to the aides and all the nurses were wonderful.  They were always available for information, teaching, support, and hands on help.  Sure, I could have done it as a nurse, but hospice took care of things so I could be a daughter.  It was a wonderful experience for the end of my father’s life.

For more information about Hospice services, please call 906-341-3284.

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