Monthly Archives: December 2012

As the Nation Mourns The Children of Newtown, We, Too, Share the Sadness

In the world of hospice, we deal with life and death everyday. Still, last week’s tragic event in Connecticut touches us deeply.

We deal with one patient at a time. We talk about the meaning, the significance of that one life. In most cases, we have time to talk to family members and loved ones about the patient’s approaching death. Even when death is anticipated and preparations have been made, a passing can be a traumatic event.

To us at Hope Hospice, the effect of the deaths of those precious children and the loving adults who took care of them is incomprehensible. The suddenness of the killings and the ages of the victims make this tragedy acutely painful to us all. We know that it is difficult for us, located a thousand miles away, to process the magnitude of the killings. We can only imagine how hard it is for the people of Newtown, Connecticut—parents, other family survivors and residents—to deal with it.

Those of us at Hope Hospice who are parents and, in some cases, grandparents know the joy our children bring us. Our patients particularly value the company of their grandchildren and other youngsters who are a part of their lives. The sadness we share with the nation is deep.

The classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” makes the point that one life can have a vital impact on the lives of others. We know from talking to patients and family members just how profound an effect one seemingly ordinary individual can have on the lives of family and friends. We cannot know how any of these children’s lives might’ve turned out, nor what roles they may have played in their families and their communities. We only know that they were taken too soon.

The how and the why of this tragedy remain to be determined and debated. In time, the grief will recede. But we will always maintain a place in our hearts for the victims of Newtown. Those poor little kids.

Ask Questions About Hospice Care

Many patients (and their loved ones) who are referred to Hope Hospice have little idea what hospice is, how it works and what our hospice team does for patients.

We carefully explain to them all the aspects of hospice. We explain that the main concern of hospice is patient comfort. We point out that we provide more than just physical comfort to patients and support to loved ones.

We appreciate especially those patients and family members who have some familiarity with hospice. These are frequently people who have had a parent, spouse or friend spend time on hospice prior to death. They may have heard about hospice from a newspaper or TV report or may have read information online.

We welcome any and all questions that you may have about the care we provide at Hope Hospice. There are no stupid questions. There are no inappropriate questions. We are here to provide service to patients and their families and loved ones. We will always try our best to answer fully any questions you have about hospice.

Was there a story regarding hospice you heard from a friend or read in a magazine article, about which you want confirmation or more information? Just ask. We have heard many of the typical questions that patients and family members ask, but we are always happy—and sometimes surprised—to hear new ones. If we don’t know the answer, we will make all attempts to find the answer.

Because hospice, as a form of healthcare, is growing so rapidly in the US, more information about hospice is available. But, as informative as certain content is, an article or broadcast report may answer one question but raise four or five new questions.

Whether you meet with Hope Hospice officials or representatives from another hospice agency, do not be shy about asking questions. And, if they are not answered to your satisfaction, ask again.

We feel that the better a patient and her or his loved ones are informed, the better a job we can do in providing comfort to the patient. So, go ahead. Ask away.

A Special Patient Passes

We lost a special patient last month. She’s a woman whose story and photos touched thousands of St. Louis Post-Dispatch readers. Jeanne Lampe’s story was told by writer Jim Doyle in an article that informed readers about hospice care.

Jeanne’s condition was emphysema. It made breathing difficult. She spent most of her final months of life hooked up to an oxygen tank. Her photo on the front page of the August 19, 2012 edition of the St. Louis Sunday Post-Dispatch showed Hope Hospice nurse Jason Winfrey monitoring her vital signs with a stethoscope. Her face, with her eyes closed and a breathing apparatus attached to her nostrils, had an expression of comfort.

Because one of the conditions of admission to hospice is an expectation that death will come in six months or less, some patients and family members feel that hospice speeds up the dying process. Jeanne was a Hope Hospice patient for more than six months, demonstrating that those life expectancy diagnoses are far from accurate.

Jeanne conveyed a wry wit when she spoke to Jim Doyle for his newspaper story. She told him, “When I’m ready to go, I want morphine and a margarita.”

Her sense of humor was intact, almost to the very end of her life. On Wednesday, October 31, Jason Winfrey came to the Hope Hospice office made up to look like the Frankenstein monster for Halloween. Wednesday is typically a day when Hope Hospice staffers have their weekly meeting and catch up on paperwork in the office. Winfrey made a special visit that day to Jeanne. He guessed correctly that she would howl with laughter when she saw him in costume.

She had a photo taken with Jason/Frankenstein standing by her bed and an expression of mock terror on her face. She quickly sent the photo to her relatives in New Jersey to provide a light moment in a grim week. They had just been through Hurricane Sandy.

Two weeks later, Jeanne Lampe died.

Jeanne was special to us at Hope Hospice because of her personality and her attitudes toward life and death. We also appreciate her readily talking to the Post-Dispatch about hospice care. She will be missed. Rest in Peace, Jeanne.