Focusing on quality of life at the end of life

“Ethos Hospice really encouraged us to have some type of closure as a family together,” said Carol Koosman, whose late husband, Konrad was an Ethos Hospice patient for just under a year.”

“I didn’t realize the impact this would have on our granddaughter, who was 6. She went up to see grandpa so often. It meant so much to her to hug the chaplain and talk about grandpa. I was so grateful for the little push they gave us.”

Focusing on quality of life

Ethos Chaplain, Pastor Brett Barksdale, and Ethos Director of Hospice, Shelby Morrow, RN-BSN. Contributed photo

Most patients don’t spend long in hospice. The median time is approximately three weeks. About one-third are referred to hospice in their last weeks of life.*

Ask just about anyone: “What worries you about the end of life?” Chances are, pain is near the top of the list. Managing pain is exactly what happens in hospice.

Hospice gives patients the best quality of life for their remaining days, weeks or months. When their pain is managed they can do more than participate in life. They can control it. They’re free to fulfill their emotional and spiritual needs.

“Hospice is focused on providing quality of life and comfort for those at the end of life,” said Pastor Brett Barksdale, chaplain with Ethos Home Care & Hospice. “It helps patients manage pain, makes them comfortable and supports them physically, emotionally and spiritually.”

“The nice thing is that it provides holistic care,” said Barksdale. “And it’s fully paid by Medicare.” Patients with terminal illnesses can receive hospice services wherever they call home.

With hospice support, patients have time to do more than say goodbye to friends and family. They have time to make memories. It might mean reminiscing, traveling to a family reunion, taking in another concert, watching grandkids’ soccer and T-ball games. Almost any activity is do-able as long as it’s safe and the care team can control their symptoms.

Spiritual comfort – just as comforting as morphine

“Wherever your heart or mind or spirit is at – that alone can give people hope and reduce anxiety and allow them to draw strength from their faith,” said Barksdale. “There’s a huge connection with faith and being able to get through hard times.

“We can provide spiritual comfort to that patient in whatever their faith tradition is. In my mind that can be just as comforting as having morphine for pain.”

Caring for caregivers

Physical and emotional demands can take an enormous toll on caregivers. There’s a reason why flight attendants tell you to put on your oxygen mask first. Unless you take care of yourself, you can’t care for anyone else.

Ethos held a dove release event for families of past patients to celebrate the lives of their loved ones and release the doves in their memory. Legend says that if you whisper to a dove, it will carry your message to the heavens. Contributed photo

The spouse of one of Brett’s patients works full time. The patient needs 24-hour care. “Having multiple visits from nurses, chaplains, certified nursing assistants and social workers makes her life feasible. She wouldn’t be able to take care of this person without it. It’s a godsend.”

Carol planned to visit her husband at the nursing home every day. “But because I knew he had hospice visitors, devotions and singing, it made me comfortable here at home. It was really a help to me.” She was able to continue with other areas of her life.

End of life can put family members on an emotional roller coaster.

“Hospice staff are like a listening ear, a friend, a counselor,” said Barksdale. “We listen when they need to get things off their chest, we validate them, think through things with them. We don’t have all the answers, but we can help bear the load emotionally and physically.”

Grief doesn’t end after the funeral

Grief is difficult, whether a death was unexpected or came after a long illness. And it remains long after people stop dropping off hotdish. Long after you’ve returned to your “normal” schedule and activities.

That’s why Ethos’ trained bereavement staff follow families for 13 months (if the family wishes). Staff follow up with the family and provide support and connections to grief groups and resources.

“The hospice chaplain gave my daughter a book for her 6-year-old daughter,” said Koosman. The book, Willow, uses the life and death of a tree to explain death and resurrection to young children. “Not too long ago, I was taking care of her. She brought the book. She wanted to read it to grandma.”

For more information about Ethos Hospice Services, call: 701-356-3803. More information is also online: https://www.ethoscare.org/our-services/hospice.

About Ethos

Ethos was formed in February 2014 by Bethany Retirement Living (Fargo), Eventide Senior Living Communities (Moorhead) and Knute Nelson (Alexandria, Minn.). Ethos Home Care & Hospice provides personalized care and services to individuals in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Each partner organization, on its own, is widely recognized for providing innovative services to aging adults throughout a continuum of care. Additionally, and more importantly, each partner possesses similar values and is committed to achieving the highest quality of care for their organizations to successfully accomplish their nonprofit missions.

Ethos is guided by their values of Christian ministry, compassion, integrity, collaboration and stewardship.

Referenced in the story:

*Distressing Symptoms, Disability, and Hospice Services at the End of Life: Prospective Cohort Study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, September 2017

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jgs.15041 

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