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November is National Hospice Month

November is National Hospice Month. So What?

You've probably seen, "This is National Such-and-Such Month," or something similar numerous times. I always wonder who decides such things. There’s a day, week, or month for just about everything: job appreciation, cause awareness, and even foods. In case you were wondering, July was National Ice Cream Month. June 4 was National Hug Your Cat Day. May 13 was National Leprechaun Day. Wish I had known, especially about the ice cream.
To be serious, November is National Hospice Month, and I believe hospice is a topic that honestly deserves attention and discussion (not that ice cream, cat-hugging, and leprechauns don’t). How we live the last months of our lives is important. It’s a critical time for the one dying, and their family and friends.

The word "hospice" frightens most of us. That's natural. It's associated with death, and who wants to go there?

However, in my years as a hospice chaplain, I've come to understand is that hospice isn't so much about death - it’s about life. Here's what I mean:
• Hospice isn't about hastening death. We're focused on giving each patient peace of mind with the greatest quality of life.
• Hospice isn't about, "He only has a few days." If someone is terminally ill and, in the opinion of a physician, has 6 months or less to live, they can qualify for hospice. Statistics show the sooner a person gets on hospice, the more comfortable they are and the greater quality of life they have.
• Hospice isn't just about the patient. We're focused on supporting the family as well. We want you free to focus on your loved one, while we take the burden of the clinical, emotional, and spiritual support. We often say to family members, "You’re our patients too."
• Hospice isn't a job. It's a calling and an honor. We feel privileged to walk with others through this deep, often murky valley.
• Hospice isn't merely about medical care. Our diverse team of compassionate, specially trained physicians, nurses, aides, social workers, chaplains, volunteers, and a host of support personnel are in this with you. We’re your private platoon, committed to fighting this battle alongside you. You're far from alone.
• Hospice isn't some acceptable form of assisted suicide. Hospice is about personal dignity, comfort, and allowing the body to take its natural course. We aggressively treat certain infections and conditions related to our patients’ comfort. Our goal is the greatest quality of life for as long as possible.

Here it is from the lips of some family members of our patients:

"What a relief! Your team has been incredible. You took the worry and wondering out of it, and that allowed me to just be a wife again. He’s comfortable now, and I can’t thank you enough for that."

"I wish we had gotten you on board sooner. Our fear held us back. We had no idea what we were missing. You've made this terribly difficult time as easy as it could have been. I can’t imagine going through this without you."

"When she passed, I felt so lost. I turned around and you guys were there. You checked on me. The support groups were a lifeline. You let me know I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t crazy. That made all the difference."

These statements may sound like I'm tooting our horn. Maybe I am. We're here to serve. We're here to help. We're here to support, encourage, and comfort. We’re with you through your loved one’s death and beyond - we follow our families for at least a year afterwards. We're committed to helping individuals and families grieve well, heal, and adjust to their new normal.

Hospice is about hearts. Your heart, and the heart of your loved one. And our hearts too.

We’re on a mission of compassion - to give the best quality of life to as many people for as long as possible. For me and many others, hospice isn't about death – it’s about life.

So from our heart to yours, thank you for allowing us to serve you. It is indeed an honor and a privilege.

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. Visit him at www.garyroe.com, or contact him at 821-2266 or groe@hospicebrazosvalley.org