To paint a fuller picture of senior living, we at Five Star sometimes invite guest writers to share their unique experiences and perspectives in a blog post. Our guest writer this week is Shari Rivera, Manager of Sales Enablement at Five Star whose ailing father found personalized care, companionship and independence in hospice. Read on for Shari’s powerful story of how her dad’s three years in hospice were three of the best years of his life.
The first conversation was hard. I was staying with my dad for a week while my mom was away, and I could immediately tell that something was off. He was acting depressed and not himself. Though he was happy to see me, he would often be upset with himself because he couldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. With the pain from his congestive heart failure (CHF) and loss of independence, he started drinking more than he should. He needed constant care to be available from time to time, and family could only provide so much. Then, hope came in the form of hospice.
Talking About Hospice – A Difficult Conversation Leading to The Right Care
The hospice conversation was tough, but even after several strokes, Dad’s mind was as sharp as ever and he made the decision for himself. I explained to him that he wasn’t going anywhere today and planned on him being with us a long time. We couldn’t change the diagnosis, but we could get him help from caregivers who would be by his side when he needed. He was scared at first, but open to the idea so we, together, called for an evaluation.
Transitioning to Hospice – A New Recliner, Caregiver and Lease on Life
That day, we also had some fun to ease his mind. He loved nothing more than watching Green Bay Packers and Notre Dame—his alma mater—football from his beat-up recliner. He had his eyes on a new one, though, that would make him more comfortable than ever on gameday. So, we decided to order the new recliner the same day he was put on hospice. Never would I have thought that he would get to enjoy that recliner for three more great years because hospice made his life worth living.
Dad’s spirits rose as soon as he started meeting with his nurse Carla, his massage therapist and other great hospice caregivers and social workers. I could see the joy and comfort hospice care gave him in his smile whenever I visited. He never overdrank and regained some strength just by knowing he was now in control of his independence. Over time, Carla became more like a friend to Dad and his beloved yellow lab Salem he affectionately calls “Big Guy”. When Dad didn’t feel well enough to come to my son’s out of town wedding and did a respite stay at a skilled nursing facility, he was so worried about who would watch “Big Guy” that he never left his side. That is, until Carla took Salem home with her!
End of Life in Hospice Care – One Last Drive and Family by His Side
When the call came after three years that nothing more could be done for Dad, I was sad but not surprised. Salem had recently passed away and Dad asked if we could go for a drive even though he usually preferred to be at home. We rode in my convertible with the top down, Dad sitting in front wearing his Packers cap and mom in the back. We took a lovely country drive and stopped for ice cream. On the way home, Dad asked if we could drive by the Catholic Cemetery to see if the mausoleum he had reserved was ready. It was complete enough that I think my dad felt at peace that it was his time to go.
When I arrived at home on his final day, Dad was no longer speaking but could hear us and held my hand until his last breath. In the room were his friends from hospice care who never left his side. They weren’t just his support team; they were his family. After Dad passed, Carla retired. We learned later she was planning on retiring two years earlier but stayed on just to be with my dad. He was the only patient she was caring for at the time of his passing. I’m so thankful that he was able to spend his final years at his home on hospice with folks who helped him find joy and independence despite his condition. Truly, hospice caregivers are angels, and those angels gave my dad his wings.
Senior Care: Where Older Adults Can Find Peace, Joy and Comfort
It can be devastating to see a loved one lose their independence and struggle to stay engaged due to ailing health. Being the primary caregiver can also be overwhelming physically and emotionally. A community of experienced caregivers who can provide support 24/7 at home or in an assisted living community can ease the burden by helping your loved one maintain independence and discover a joyful new lease on life. Call one of our senior care experts at (833) 457-8271 or find a Five Star Senior Living community near you to learn more.