A Hospice Halloween

A trip down memory lane: During 1981 and 1986 I was a hospice primary care nurse. There were no medicare regs, actually there were no guidelines at all. We simply made it up as we went along. Our goal was to support a person and their family during the experience of approaching death. Basically, we didn't even know what dying was like let alone what to do while it was all happening. In hindsight, I see that time as my schooling and the patients and their families my teachers. 

Our biggest advantage, and gift, was time. No one told us how much time to spend with a patient and family, let alone what to do with the time we had.  I’d stand on the front porch, say to myself “I seek to heal not hurt” and then ring the doorbell not knowing what I would find on the other side of the door and even more concerning what to do about it when I found it.

Our hospice started out small, census of ten or so (if we were lucky) with one and half nurses. I was the half for about a year until the census became consistent enough to warrant two of us. If the census was low Jody, the full time nurse, and I would ride together to visit patients. We were both learning and had amazing end of life discussions as we rode together. It also gave the families the opportunity to get to know both of us since we divided who was on call every other week: 24/7 on, 24/7 off.

Our first Halloween we decided to dress in costumes, to bring a bit of surprise and smiles to our visits. We rode together, one clown and one Mother Nature. Dressing in costume became our tradition and we continued until we stopped seeing patients several years later. 

It is forty some years since those days yet on every Halloween my mind brings forth those memories of the look of surprise, then smiles, sometimes down right laughter on the faces of our patients and their families. We were sharing a tradition of living with those that daily were reminded living was about to end.

Something More...  about A Hospice Halloween

I share other memories of families and patients in my comprehensive training tool, THIS IS HOW PEOPLE DIE.  An ideal resource for training new staff and volunteers. Also ideal for consistent care throughout the agency per medicare regs. 

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barbara karnes

Hi Darla, you might check out My Friend, I Care which is very easy to understand. The Tree of Life is our children’s coloring book and a simple explanation of death through nature.

David Klein

Reminds us of the Christmas we went caroling with the hospice workers to the homes of their patients. At first it seemed strange to wish someone who was in their final days of living a Merry Christmas. But, singing brought many a smile and even some who joined in with us to sing Christmas songs! In the last home we sang in, the patient was close to leaving this world, and as we sang, they transitioned into the next with a smile on their face!!!!!!

Darla Martin

Hi Barbara,
I was wondering if you have any information on grief for a developmentally disabled person. My sister in-law just lost her mother.
Thank you, Darla

Jane D.

Jane D October 28, 2021
This brought back such a great memory! Halloween was such a fun day with my Mother in hospice! She asked me to bring candy to hand out to her nurses. They were all dressed up & I’ll never forget the joy and smile on her face as she interacted with them. I truly treasure that day! Such a gift! – Jane D.

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