The Importance of Individualized Care: Hospice
As a bookkeeper for the Children’s Aid Society in New York and a mother, Harriet Wital was always a detail oriented and focused individual. After retirement, she continued to use her multiple talents while volunteering for a hearing impaired group, attending classes, tutoring low income first graders, and later serving on the Residents’ Council at the retirement community where she lived in Florida.
When Harriet was diagnosed with lung cancer, her daughters, Ruth Skolnick and Janis Wital, decided that it would be easier for all of them to move their mother closer. Ruth started calling hospice organizations in the Montgomery County area in order to determine what type of care was available for her mother. She decided to seek assistance from the Jewish Social Service Agency Hospice because of the small number of patients that they maintain, which allows them to give each patient and their families individualized, personal care.
While her mother’s illness was difficult for Ruth, her mother, and their entire family to cope with, the services of JSSA were indispensable during their time of need. Ruth is happy to recount her positive experience: “The caring, the concern, and the gentleness of everyone we dealt with helped to ease the terrible pain of the experience. One of the most important aspects of the help that my mother received was the pain management. Mom’s hospice nurse was immensely diligent in overseeing the dispensing of the many drugs Mom needed to take.”
The responsiveness and sensitivity of the hospice nurses helped to ease the pain of the family throughout the ordeal of her mother’s illness. Her mother was never allowed to suffer because, according to Ruth, “When Mom first complained of discomfort and then exhibited that discomfort non-verbally, the priority was to make her comfortable again. Without hesitancy, either the type or level of her medication was changed in order to make her comfortable again.”
In addition to easing her mother’s pain, the Hospice representatives offered the family members much needed help: “They told us what was happening and what would be happening. Nothing was held back, but nothing was ‘thrown’ at us either. The hospice nurse and social worker facilitated our expression of the grief, fear, and anger we were feeling as Mom slipped away.”
Harriet Wital received hospice care both in an assisted living facility and later in her daughter’s home, where she passed away. As a caregiver and a daughter, Ms. Skolnick is incredibly grateful for the conscientious care her mother received from JSSA. Most importantly, she points out, “We [the family] knew that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, hospice was there. They were there; no questions asked.” While her experience was difficult and life altering, she is quick to advise other family members to seek the help of hospice as soon as their loved one receives a negative prognosis.
Although most individuals wait until a few weeks before a person passes away to seek Hospice services, Ruth Skolnick, the self proclaimed, “poster child for Jewish Community Hospice,” reminds us all that, “There is so much more that Hospice can do to make life a little bit easier for the caregivers as well as for the patient.” Even today, six months after her mother’s death, Ruth Skolnick is still receiving assistance from JSSA, through their bereavement counseling services.