“He passed away peacefully at home.” How often do we see these words in an obituary? When we do, how often do we think that we would want the same for our loved ones or even ourselves?
What we don’t see in that sentence is the labor of love that took place, behind the scenes, to enable a loved one to end their life’s journey in the comfort of their home. Ruth Hamilton and Joe Lentini of Conway provided that care to Ruth’s father, Al Hamilton, with the help of hospice services from the Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice of Carroll County and Western Maine (VHNCH). They recently shared their story.
“My Dad and I had a lot of very good moments thanks to hospice,” said Ruth Hamilton. “These moments would not have been the same in a nursing home or in a hospital.” Ruth’s Dad’s health was declining due to heart failure. He didn’t want to go to the hospital but Ruth and Joe knew they didn’t have what he needed at home. He expressed his desire to go on hospice care. Thanks to VNHCH, he was able to stay in the home he had lived in since 1971. He cherished his home along the Swift River.
“His quality of life actually improved,” shared Joe Lentini. “He was a very independent man.” Al was able to spend this time with his family, including his grandsons.
VNHCH provided a team of people to Ruth and Joe. “It was an unknown journey for us,” explained Ruth. During an end of life journey, there are transitions that may not be apparent to a family. “Hospice helped us to see when something really had to change each time.” Oftentimes, families don’t know when to ask for help. The hospice nurses and medical director work as a partner to the family throughout the journey. “I knew I could call at anytime, 24 hours a day,” said Ruth. “There were times that I did call in the middle of the night and they were always there to help me.”
The hospice team at VNHCH worked hard to provide hospice volunteers who had a connection to Al. “We have found this to be very important to our hospice families,” said Maureen Smith, RN, VNHCH Hospice Administrator. “Our goal is to ease the stress on the family as much as possible. We want to make sure that each volunteer is a good fit for the family.” Hospice volunteers, who are highly trained, offer a critical respite care for the caretakers.
“There was a time that we, as caretakers, were getting fried,” shared Ruth. “Julie (Lanoie, RN, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator at VNHCH) recognized that and took charge bringing in volunteers to make sure we got out of the house.” Ruth and Joe explained that while they have wonderful friends, the hospice volunteers knew exactly what Ruth and Joe were going through and what they needed. It shows in the quality of care.
When Al passed away this past March, Ruth and Joe continued to have contact with the VNHCH hospice team. “Despite the clear path we were on, it was surprisingly hard afterwards,” shared Ruth. The VNHCH hospice team offers bereavement counseling to the family for up to a year after their loved one passes away.
“It’s a really well-organized program. They were so respectful of Dad’s space,” shared Ruth. “It’s such a difficult thing to watch your Dad die and to have it going on in your home. But, when you consider the alternatives, it’s the way life should be. It’s a wonderful thing.”
For more information about hospice services from VNHCH, visit the website at www.vnhch.org or call 603-356-7006. ###