January 2016 | Wesley Hospice

Living without Regrets!

Though I cannot speak for everyone, most of us can agree that in life there are regrets. For some, those regrets can still be addressed, others cannot. For me, my biggest regret thus far is that I never had enough nerve to ask my parents while they were living questions about my childhood. Because I waited, I will never know from them why and when my parents divorced, as neither of them saw fit to take me with them as they started new lives. Lucky for me I ended up with my grandparents, so I had the best of both worlds. They were amazing and did a great job of parenting and an even better job of being the best grandparents a girl could have ever dreamed of having.

Do you ever stop and think about things you wish you had done in life? I once asked a friend if she had any regrets in life. She responded, “That it is never too late to remedy a regret.” I guess I can see where that could be true, but for those who have been given the diagnosis of a terminal illness, time may not be on their side, and instead of focusing on past regrets, they choose to make memories with family in the time they have left.

As I researched, I found many people share a lot the same regrets.   Here are some of the most common regrets:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This is the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Once a person loses their health, they realize it is too late in some cases to fulfill those dreams.

  1. I wish I did not work so hard.

This one is most common in men. They regret having worked so much they often missed their children’s sporting events, plays, and other significant childhood events.

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others, mainly family members. As a result, they settled for a lesser existence and never become whom they were truly meant to be.

  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often over the years people tend to become so consumed with their own lives that they allow friendships once treasured to slip away. There are many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort they deserve. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

  1. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Surprisingly, many people did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called “comfort zone” of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. The fear of change had them pretending to others, and themselves, that they were content.

Most of us do not ever truly realize we have had regrets over the years, and we become complacent and forget about goals we once thought were important to achieve. Often when faced with our own mortality, the reality of what we’ve missed in our lives quickly surfaces, and is in some cases is recognized for the first time as a regret.

I can only say this — live life to its fullest. Enjoy each day as though there are no tomorrows, and hopefully you will be able to leave this world without regrets. So instead of spending your last days saying you are sorry for not making it to your families’ big events, you can talk about all the fun you all had enjoying the events together.

Hospice-Planning Ahead: Helping Your Family Move Forward

Planning for your family’s future after you are gone is not an easy task, but one that is imperative to handle. Receiving news that you or a loved one has an illness that will eventually lead to end of life care is not something anyone is prepared to hear, and planning for your family’s future is surely not your first thought. As difficult as it is to think ahead about how your family will move forward without you, I can say to you that I wish my father had done more planning due to what I had to go through since his death.

I cannot stress the importance of planning ahead so that you can put your mind at ease and focus on those important goodbyes. By planning ahead, you will also make the financial, legal and practical consequences of illness and death much easier for your family.

Here’s a checklist of things to consider, whether you are facing the end of life now, or you want to plan for your future end of life care.

  • Legal and financial matters – Do not leave chaos behind for others to clean up. This can cause disputes and arguments between family members. This is the reason a will or trust is first on the planning list.
  • Organ donation – You can donate any organ or tissue you choose, including your brain, to science, especially if you feel strongly about the research that may help future cures for illnesses such as cancer or dementia. If this is an option for you, make sure you write it down or make it an Advance Decision, and tell your family.
  • Make a plan for what you want when you die – plan the type of care you’d like to receive towards the end of your life. This includes where you’d like to spend your final days. This is important to do earlier rather than later in case you are unable to make decisions for yourself in the future. You can do this by making an Advance Decision (a living will). This can be made by anyone of sound mind over 18 years old.
  • Consider how you would like to be remembered – what would you like people to know before you die? Are there personal messages you would like to leave for those you love? Maybe you’d like to leave a video, or create a memory box including things that were special to you through the years.
  • Plan your funeral arrangements – have you thought about whether you would prefer to be buried or cremated? Think about what kind of service you would like, and whether you want it to be more of a celebration of your life or a conventional service. What songs, readings, and scriptures would you like? Type or write everything you want to happen and give it to someone you can count on to see your wishes through.

Whether it’s you or a loved one nearing the end of life, planning ahead is not pushing the end button, but can be something that not only gives you peace of mind, but will also help your loved ones deal with life without you. The loss of a loved one can be tough, and planning ahead helps you focus on the life you have left to live and allows for a chance to let your loved ones grieve in peace once you’re gone.

For information on planning to help your family move forward, please contact Kenya George at 614-451-6700 or email her at kgeorge@mecsrc.com. Kenya can also offer information on additional services and care offered at Hospice Services at Methodist Eldercare.

Questions for your Hospice team

Four months ago a good friend of mine learned that his father has stage 4 brain cancer. With medicine, his father is able to function doing some of the day-to-day activities that he has done for years. However, at night when he sleeps through the time of his next dose of pain medicine, he awakens with unbearable pain, lessening his quality of life. He is irritable and uncomfortable until his pain medications take effect. It has been recommended that the family call for information about hospice, but neither he nor his family feel they are ready.

My family called hospice for my mom who was nearing the end of her life after battling lung cancer for two years. I felt sharing my family’s experience might help my friend and his family better understand the services offered by hospice and how it can help give his father a better quality of life. Because this is a decision he and his family need to be comfortable with, I recommended he call a hospice team with his family’s questions and concerns.

Here are some of the most common questions asked of hospice teams:

How is hospice different from other medical care?

  • Hospice looks at all needs of the patient and the patient’s family. A coordinated team of hospice professionals, assisted by volunteers, work to tailor a plan designed to meet the patient’s and family’s emotional and spiritual needs, as well as the patient’s physical needs.
  • The emphasis is on controlling pain and symptoms through the most advanced techniques available, and also on emotional and spiritual support tailored to the needs of the patient and family.
  • Hospice recognizes that a serious illness affects the entire family, not just the person who is ill.

What services does hospice provide?

  • Physicians (the patient’s own physicians and hospice physicians, who are specialists in controlling pain and other symptoms of serious illness) prescribe medications and other methods of pain and symptom control.
  • Nurses are experts at maintaining patient comfort. They assess the patient frequently and help family members provide the necessary support.
  • Certified nurse assistants and home health aides provide personal care, companionship and valuable emotional support, as well as support for the patient and family with activities of daily living.
  • Social workers coordinate community resources and assist the patient and family with non-medical concerns. They can help family members mend damaged relationships, plan for the future and ease other emotional difficulties.
  • Chaplains and spiritual counselors help patients and families cope with spiritual questions and concerns at the end of life, either directly or by coordinating services with the patient’s and family’s spiritual advisors.
  • Bereavement coordinators help patients and families deal with grief. Grief support services continue for at least one year after the death of a hospice patient.
  • Volunteers provide companionship and emotional support and offer help in myriad ways.
  • Hospice also provides medications, medical equipment and supplies necessary to promote comfort at home or in other hospice settings.
  • Hospice staff members are available by phone at all times, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Who pays for hospice care?

  • Hospice is covered by most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, with few out-of-pocket costs to the patient. The Medicare hospice benefit covers costs related to the terminal illness, including the services of the hospice team, medication, medical equipment and supplies. Medicare reimburses for different levels of hospice care, recognizing sometimes patients require special attention.

When should patients and families consider hospice?

  • After diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, patients and their families should consider their choices for care. A patient does not have to be bedbound or critically ill to be admitted to hospice. A hospice representative would be happy to talk with you or your family about hospice options.

Because a family makes the choice to call hospice does not mean they are saying goodbye at that moment. The choice to call means you love and care for your loved one and want them to have dignity and peace at the end. I can speak from experience that calling hospice for my mom was the best decision made at a very difficult time for my family. They helped make her end peaceful for all.

For all other questions about hospice and how we can help your family with hospice needs, please call Kenya George at 614-451-6700 or email her at kgeorge@mecsrc.com.