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End-of-Life Stories from Professional CAREGivers

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At the end of someone’s life, family members – adult children and spouses – can be overwhelmed by the prospect of saying goodbye to a loved one. While these moments are personal and private, home care professionals can help by providing companionship, medication reminders and personal care to those who are in their final days, along with respite for family caregivers.

Home Instead® CAREGiversSM, for instance, often offer comfort and care, in life and in death, and thereby help exhausted family caregivers.

Home Instead CAREGiver Mary Lee sees it this way: “I can help the clients make that crossing. It means a lot to me to be given the privilege of showing the love and compassion of the God of all comfort to a person in his or her final days.”

Destined to be there

CAREGiver Deborah remembers being the first assigned to a 24-7 hospice team for an elderly man.

“There was no anticipation of a death in the immediate future, maybe a couple of months out. In the office, we were worried about getting off on the right foot with me making a good breakfast for the client at the end of my night shift. But five hours into my shift, the unthinkable happened. The client died.

“As you could imagine, it was extremely tough. I stayed with my client’s wife and comforted her as best I could. I let the hospice nurse do her duties. I took the widow into another room so she wouldn’t see the funeral home personnel come and go.

“Her adult children began arriving, and I was still comforting her. Our office staff member on duty told me on the phone, ‘Well, you just never know what is going to happen with hospice. Hang in there.’ And I did – I stayed strong for the wife. It was rough. Given the circumstances coming in, I never had anticipated this situation. When I look back, I am thinking more and more that I was destined to be there and to comfort the family.”

Shared tears

CAREGiver Michelle slid from her chair, plopped down on the living room floor and shared a soulful cry with the daughter of a hospice client. Tears flowed as the emotion of the moment overtook them. “There we were, bawling our eyes out,” Michelle recalled.

“There is stress in life. You must acknowledge it and deal with it, but not surrender to it. You’ve got to let stress go, and that is what we were doing together. Of course, the clients always come first. But I am there as much for the clients’ family members as I am for the clients,” she added.

“It is an honor to try to connect with them and their families. I try to figure out their journeys and how best to relate to them and help them. My goal is to be the best I can be for the clients and their families. I am an open book to them because I want them to know I am totally committed to helping in any way I can.”

Picking out a funeral suit

CAREGiver Marie helped a woman in her early 70s who had been living with Alzheimer’s disease for six months. “I recall helping her one day with personal care. It seemed as if she was a little more agitated than usual. I told her it would be OK, that I’d be done quickly. She looked up, smiled and said, ‘I am so glad you are here,’ ” Marie recalled.

“Later, her longtime friend helped me dress her in a beautiful pantsuit just the week before she died, and she looked so good in it that day. That is what she was dressed in at her funeral.”

Marie is still friends with the family, who expressed happiness with Marie’s care for their senior loved one and her constant communication about the client’s changing condition.

Holding hands

CAREGiver Ella helped the client for about four months, until the older woman died a day before a holiday. “The day before she passed away, her husband was on one side of the bed holding one hand, and I was on the other side of the bed holding her other hand. Her husband and I cried together as we tried to make her as comfortable as we could,” Ella recalled.

“During her care, Home Instead and a hospice representative were involved, and we helped the husband with the grieving because the process had started before she died. It was hard, but we were comforting both of them.”  Ella is a faith-based person who never imposes her beliefs on clients and their families. “I did not pray with them, as they were not spiritual people, but I said a lot of silent prayers while holding her hand.

“She was my first client to die, and that is the hard part of caregiving. Being with her, I had become fond of her. It was heartbreaking. She was a sweet lady, and I think about her often. At the end, she slept a lot. She was in a lot of pain. Near the end, she opened her eyes, looked into mine and asked me to hold hands with her and remain beside her,” Ella said.

Bittersweet moments

CAREGiver Peggy has lost at least five clients. “There are a couple of bittersweet components to working with the elderly. I saw one client just once before she died. Another client died 45 minutes after I arrived for a hospice shift. A male client took a quick turn for the worse on a Friday and died early the following Tuesday morning, the morning I would ordinarily have been scheduled to serve him,” Peggy said.

“It is hard to watch their distress. I come alongside and try to help as much as possible. I had one hospice client in an assisted living facility who would be talking and laughing one day and unresponsive the next day. You just don’t know how some days will go.”

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Additional Resources:

Compose Your Life SongSM Music Generator
Strength for the Moment Facebook Prayer Group

Last revised: February 23, 2018

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