Much to the dismay of prospective parents, babies do not come with a handbook or road map to instruct parents on the journey of this new life. Prospective parents spend hours in classes regarding the birthing process and caring for a newborn. Growth and milestones of a child are measured and tracked. Prospective parents typically do all that is possible to prepare themselves for the new responsibility of caring for and protecting this new life. Most parents, new and seasoned, continue their involvement in the child’s life by making sure the child is active, nourished, emotionally supported, and educated – academically and socially. Our communities become involved in making sure children have parks in which to play, schools in which to learn and social services to fill in gaps when needed. As they say, “It takes a village…”
Much like the beginning of a life, the end-of-life journey is a pivotal milestone, not just for the person engaged in this final leg of life’s journey but also for the loved ones surrounding that person. However, as a society we do not focus as much on being prepared for this final leg of the journey. November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. This year’s theme is “Courageous Conversations.” It is meant to encourage us all to sit with our loved ones and have what can be an impactful conversation about the experience or path we each want for the end of our life’s journey.
There are resources available and steps we can take – a road map of sorts – to help prepare ourselves. Being an estate planning attorney, I would be remiss if I did not advocate for having estate planning documents completed by an attorney whose practice is focused in this area of the law. However, this is just one of many things to prepare.
I have had the honor of serving on the Board of Directors of Hospice of the Panhandle since 2018. Through my service on the board, I continue to learn about what we can do to prepare for the end-of-life journey and the broad spectrum of services a hospice can provide to its patients and his or her loved ones. The care and services that a hospice provides can buoy a family through the troubled waters of a loved one’s serious illness and death. Hospice provides physical, emotional, and spiritual care for a patient and his or her family. These services can improve the quality of life for all involved during each stage of life. By supporting family caregivers, a hospice provides the space for the patient and their loved ones to get a sense of completion in their relationships. Hospice can provide the level of care necessary, whether it be palliative care, in-home services, or 24-hour medical services in an inpatient facility.
In addition to the compassionate and quality medical treatment provided by its medical staff, a hospice can provide spiritual guidance from its staff of chaplains who are trained to help a patient connect with the faith of his or her choosing and honor individual beliefs and traditions. Additionally, hospices can provide grief counseling and support, free of charge, to anyone within its region who has experienced a loss, whether their loved one was a patient of hospice or not.
Just as each beginning of life is unique, so is each end of life. If you or a loved one is experiencing a serious and life-limiting illness, reach out to your local hospice and palliative care provider to see what services are available in your area. While we do not determine the route this journey will take for ourselves or our loves ones, your hospice and palliative care provider can help prepare a roadmap for you or your loved one’s final journey with an eye toward healing, peace, and comfort.