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We have all experienced the loss of loved ones, and if you haven’t, you will, because death happens to all of us. If you have ever had a friend or loved one who is terminally ill or referred to hospice care at the end of their life, or wondered about hospice and what they do, then today is the perfect show for you.
In this episode, I’m talking with my friend, Shelley Sisson, a retired hospice and palliative care nurse. Shelley shares what hospice care entails, when it is utilized, and how to die well. She shares that the end of life is like standing on holy ground, and although it can be painful to watch a friend or loved one with a terminal illness die, that we can catch glimpses of heavenly treasures if we will look for them.
When a terminally ill patient has been referred for hospice care, the goal is symptom management and to keep them as comfortable as possible during whatever time they have left. Hospice has a team that works together to provide medication management, self-care, chaplain services, as well as patient and family education to help the family best support their loved one at the end of their life.
Shelley shares how we can best support a friend or loved one with a terminal illness receiving hospice care, as well as how we can support their grieving loved ones. Death is inevitable for all of us, but we can take the opportunity to die well.
In this blog post, Shelly shares 4 Myths About Hospice Care.
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It’s crucial that at the end of life, we learn how to die well.
Hospice is medical care that can be provided once a doctor has said that there is nothing else that can be done to cure a condition. Hospice provides care and comfort measures, to address symptoms, and to keep the patient comfortable in their final days.
Hospice care is usually provided for the last few days to months of a terminally ill patient’s life.
If you or your loved one are not clicking with your hospice team, there are other teams available, and it’s okay to ask to be transferred to work with another team that might be a better fit.
Hospice helps provide support for administering medications, self-care for the patient, and trains the family to be able to best support their loved one.
There is always a last dose of medication. Someone has to administer the last dose. But it is not the last dose that has caused them to die. It is not something to feel guilty about.
Don’t exclude your children from the dying process. They tend to handle it better than adults do. But if you don’t include them, they will be prone to believe lies rather than the truth about the situation, and those lies can haunt them into adulthood.
Please don’t tell your little children that the patient went to sleep, because everyone goes to sleep every night, but that can cause fear that they will go to sleep and never wake up. Tell them the truth.
Look for Jesus. He promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. He is there in the room with your loved one. If they are staring at someone, ask them what they see. If a patient indicates they are seeing something, encourage them to ask. God gives them glimpses of heaven to prepare them to leave this world and enter the next world. The only struggle they have is leaving this world and leaving their family members behind.
It’s okay to cry. Tears are liquid prayers.
Some of the signs and signals that we can see if we look for them, are God’s way of comforting them so they are not afraid of leaving this world. But patients and their loved ones often experience fear at the thought of death. But God is not going to let them go through this alone.
Tell your friend or loved one that you love them, that you will miss them, but that will be okay. Patients often hold on longer because they fear their loved ones won’t be okay in their absence.
Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes words aren’t necessary, but your presence always matters. Don’t be afraid to laugh—laughter is good medicine.
To the loved ones of a terminally ill patient, let them know that you are going to be there for them. Let them know that their feelings are normal, and that what they are going through is normal. Let them know that there is no time span cut off for grief. Share your fond memories of them and their loved ones.
A new normal will develop although it doesn’t happen quickly. Nothing seems normal anymore, but that will change over time. The intense grief will lessen, but you will still miss your loved one. Even Jesus wept when Lazarus died, which gives us permission to grieve.
If you are mourning or grieving, it is not a lack of faith. It just attests to how much you love them, and how much it hurts to go on without them. It’s a hard battle in your own soul to know that they will be better off, even if it means you have to let go.
To the one with a terminal illness, take every moment to love on your loved ones that you have. Even with a terminal illness, it can be a blessing to give you a chance to make amends. Love them. Know that Jesus is with you. He is going to be with you in this process and be with you on the other side.
To the loved ones of terminally ill patients, if you are both believers, you will see your loved one again. It’s hard, but you will see them again. God is faithful—He will mend your heart. He won’t erase your memories, but He will mend your heart.
Not even death can separate us from the love of God.
Deuteronomy 31:6 “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Joshua 1:9 “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Romans 8:38-39 says “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Zephaniah 3:17 says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Crossing the Creek: A Practical Guide to Understanding the Dying Process by Michael Holmes
Living at the End of Life: A Hospice Nurse Addresses the Most Common Questions by Karen Whitley Bell, RN
Changing the Way We Die: Compassionate End of Life Care and The Hospice Movement by Fran Smith, Sheila Himmel, and Joan Halifax
Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award.
Hope Prevails Bible Study by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award.
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Guest: Shelley Sisson, a retired hospice and palliative care nurse
Shelley was a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse for 12 years and worked all over the United States, but mostly in Oklahoma and Central Texas. She retired and moved back to Oklahoma.
She still has a passion for all things hospice and what it provides to patients and their families.
Hosted By: Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Audio Technical Support: Bryce Bengtson