Nancy Wurtzel

Nancy Wurtzel is a public relations professional and creative writer, who recently returned to her native Minnesota after living on the West Coast for many years. Read about her midlife journey on her blog, Dating Dementia, as she navigates through divorce, restarting a career, dating, empty nest challenges, moving home, baby boomer issues and caring for an aging parent with Alzheimer’s. Follow Nancy on Twitter and Facebook.

Dying at Home: The Hospice Miracle

Posted by: Nancy Wurtzel Updated: December 10, 2013 - 9:37 AM

This post was written in November 2013, when my mother was going through the final days of her life.

My mother continues to deteriorate.  She stopped eating five days ago and is taking very little water.  There is little to do but wait.  In between, we field emails, phone calls, texts and the stream of hospice people.

Someone from hospice is here almost daily.

I cannot begin to convey my appreciation for this wonderful organization that is helping my mom and our family.  They are a lifeline during the time life is ending.  We have a team of people assisting us, including a case manager, social worker, chaplain, home health aid, music therapist, volunteers and more.

During our meetings or phone conversations, the hospice person always asks, “What else can we do for your mom?”  Their next question is, “What can we do for you?”

What an amazing organization.

You might be surprised to learn that the term “hospice” can be traced as far back as the 11th century, when it was a place for weary or ill travelers to receive shelter and rest.

Modern-day hospice and the concept of providing care for the terminally ill and dying began in England in 1948 by Dame Cicely Saunders, who used her skills as a nurse to create the first care home dedicated to the idea of bringing comfort and meaning to the end-of-life process.  Saunders later went to medical school, as a physician she traveled widely, both speaking and training about the concept of hospice.

By the late 1960s, hospice was introduced into the U.S.  The hospice philosophy met with initial resistance by some in the medical field and other groups of people.  However, over time it has an established and accepted practice in the U.S. and many other countries.

I often hear hospice described as “a way to help people live until they die.”

I’d describe it as an organization for the patient and family who choose comfort care over prolonging life with invasive procedures, machines or antibiotics.  They provide palliative care by treating pain and symptoms and they attend to the patient’s and the families emotional needs.

Our dad, who, like my mother, had Alzheimer’s disease, was in hospice for the last months of his life.  However, 14 years ago in a small town, the services were much more limited.  Today, in the Twin Cities area, they offer so many services that I’m literally turning people away.

I feel as though the hospice team has enveloped us in a huge hug and they won’t let go.  I’m going to let them keep hugging for as long as they want.

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