By Shelley Steiner
Special to The Herald-Mail
In 2004, my perfectly normal life was suddenly in a tailspin when my husband was diagnosed with a terminal blood disorder. The disease progressed too quickly to do anything more than treat the symptoms.
As his health rapidly declined, he decided that he wanted to die at home with minimal discomfort. He felt that because I was a nurse I could handle this.
I, on the other hand, was fearful because I am a nurse and because this was my husband. I was used to giving comfort and support to someone else going through a terminal illness, but I wasn't ready to face this in my own life. My husband suggested that we call Hospice. We saw his physician that day and he made the referral.
Within a few hours, the Hospice staff made the first visit to our home and developed a plan with my husband that addressed his concerns, both physical and emotional. The team, consisting of a nurse, social worker and chaplain, taught us what to expect during my husband's final days.
Even though I was a nurse and had witnessed death many times, this was a whole new experience for me. This was my husband, my best friend that I was losing. I was on a journey that I would not have been able to endure without the help of the Hospice team.
They were there anytime we needed them: to answer a question, offer emotional support and supply equipment that would help maintain his independence as long as possible. They made sure that his goals were met. His death was serene, and he was surrounded by friends and family.
After my husband's death, Hospice continued to support me through the grief support programs they offer. I attended a Healing Hearts group; six years later, we still meet monthly to go to dinner, lunch, or a movie. We continue to comfort each other as life goes on without our spouses. I cannot overemphasize the value of Hospice as a service to those facing the end of life. Their expertise is such a gift to those who avail themselves of it. We all have to face death — it is a part of life. Area residents are blessed to be able to face it with the help of a group of experts at Hospice of Washington County.
If you have a loved one who is declining with a serious illness, please call Hospice of Washington County at 301-791-6360 to see how we can help during this stressful time of your life. If you know someone who is in need of our help, please pass this along to them.
Shelley J. Steiner is marketing and community relations director of Hospice of Washington County.