Several days ago, a close family friend was admitted to hospice. At age 96, Eleanor began experiencing significant shortness of breath, dizziness and chest discomfort.
Her doctor diagnosed her with valvular stenosis, which is when the heart valve doesn’t fully open due to stiffening of the valve leaflets – the one-way doors of the heart that open and close to pump blood. Because of Eleanor’s advanced age and many other health issues, heart valve replacement wasn’t an option.
Now, this woman who spent much of her life tending to other patients as a hospice nurse is spending her final days in the compassionate care and comfort of inpatient hospice.
“It’s important for people to understand the hospice is a philosophy of care not a place,” says Vickie Prince of Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice in Wichita. “During the last six months of life, hospice care can help the dying person and their family members cope with both the physical and emotional challenges of end-of-life.”
Hospice care, says Prince, focuses on a patient’s quality of life and comfort rather than curing a disease. Offering medical services as well as emotional and spiritual support, hospice care can take place in a person’s home or as an inpatient at Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice, located within Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis.
“When people hear end-of-life care or hospice, it can be extremely shocking,” explains Prince. “That’s why it’s important to plan end-of-life care in advance before you need it, discuss your wishes with your loved ones and write it down. The topic of end-of-life is difficult, but having a plan can help make those final days or weeks spent in the loving support of family and friends rather than worrying about putting your affairs in order.”
In the case of our family friend, she was well prepared. Eleanor had developed an end-of-life plan that included her hospice preference. Her pre-planning was a gift to all of us because we could focus on her, rather than the tedious and stressful decisions and tasks associated with her last days.