I am putting together a program to help people understand Hospice better. I want to be able to talk about it in a coherent way so of course I go through the various aspects. There are the physical surroundings, the ethics, the philosophy but I found myself drawn to the intangible…a thing called care.
The nurses and the aides at Porter Hospice are incredible. There is a sign over the entrance to the nurse’s station that says, “Angels Live Here”. They got that right. This isn’t a job to most but some sort of superhuman calling.
There is a woman by the name of Margie. She gets into this zone where she is going through check lists of the eight or nine people on her watch. It’s her brood. She juggles a myriad of details about each patient from meds to dietary concerns. From family to where they want their remains sent. One day when I was on duty she called four hours after her shift to check on a patient’s well being. This is more than a job.
The incredible part is that they do this day in, day out. I spend four hours a week. I started to look around my mundane world. I began to notice a lot of heroes and heroines. I saw a woman in church with here husband by her side in a wheelchair. He had suffered some sort of a paralyzing blow and was motionless. He could maneuver his chariot with the joystick on the armrest but who got him in and out of the car? Who fed him? Who cleaned his soiled body?
With my eyes getting wider and wider by the day I saw parents with spastic children. I thought of the poor babes stricken from birth. They didn’t institutionalize them but took on a superhuman task of taking care of the child 24/7. There really aren’t quiet moments. Romantic dinners. A getaway to the islands and idyllic beaches. Forget it. Their life is their child.
There are husbands and wives devoted in sickness and in health. There are sons and daughters who forsake time alone for a parent lost in the fog of Alzheimers. We have a friend whose wife visited her mom everyday for almost ten years. Long past any sort of recognition it was not an act of duty. It was pure love.
There are young wives and families dealing with a husband or dad who had his limbs or his brains brutalized by war. They are scarred by burned flesh and seared minds. Imagine seeing that hunk of a guy going off to faraway places only to come home a mere shadow of a man. You talk about love.
I also thought about those special ed teachers. Their students are not overachievers breathlessly waiting to be called on as they raised their hands frantically. They work for days just trying to elicit a tiny response. Progress is measured in year not days Patience, love and understanding far beyond anything I am capable of.
Many of you have gone through some of these ordeals. I can only sympathize not empathize. I have seen members of my family dealing with ALS and the ravages of cancer. To each and everyone of you I tip my hat and can’t say enough.
I don’t write this to sooth my own pangs of conscience. I have been beyond lucky. If hit with it I hope I will be able to cope. I wrote a few months ago a piece called, “You’ll Never Know.” I evoked some interesting responses as I tried to speak of catastrophes in life that we can’t even imagine. And that is the point. This our world not yours or mine. We are part of it and really can’t look away if we are to be part of it.
I am constantly amazed by the plethora of people today who dwell on bitching. My marriage sucks. I lost money in the market. I am going to give up golf I am so bad. This wine is dishwater. Really?
There was a study done and released last week that said that the rich are not uncaring but just have no idea. You can’t understand what life in the projects or on the streets if you haven’t been there. You have no idea the ignominy of standing in line with food stamps unless you have felt the glare of your fellow shoppers as you dole out the chits. Ditto for all for all of us and what I am speaking of here.
Look it takes an incredible person to really devote their lives to caring for others whether it is by choice or circumstance. There are very few Father Damiens or Mother Theresas. Saints they are or should be. We are not them but we should at least appreciate what drives them and what they mean to all of us. .
I guess I hope when I get my presentation ready I can give it with a lot of soul and passion. Not for me but for all the incredible people out there that spend most of their time in the service of others. I hope I do them proud. Most of all I hope they realize with every encounter that change my life for the better.
That’s it for now and please take care.
Ted The Great
The estimated value of volunteer time for 2012 is $22.14 per hour.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 64.3 million Americans, or 26.8 percent gave 7.9 billion hours of volunteer service worth $171 billion in 2011.
65.7 million caregivers make up 29% of the U.S. adult population providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged. A caregiver is an unpaid individual (a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor) involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks.
MySalary.com reports that in 2011 the national median annual income for hospice staff nurses is $65,829. Entry-level hospice nurses, in the lowest 10 percent of wage earners, receive an annual average income of $54,736. Hospice staff nurses with extensive experience and academic achievements, fall in the top 10 percent of earners and receive an annual median income of $77,179. They are worth every penny.