The subject of a loved one's impending death is one that makes many people very uncomfortable. Death is inevitable for all but it's not something most people want to think about.
Gerald Knutson, 82, of Oklahoma City, was recently in this type of situation. His wife, Audette, was very ill in 2010 and he knew that her life was likely drawing to an end.
It was Christmas Eve that year when Knutson decided to enlist the help of Centennial Hospice to care for his wife. She had been in a nursing home for several months and he knew that her health was rapidly deteriorating.
November is National Hospice Month. Knutson shared his story to help others in similar situations understand the value of hospice care.
“We make sure the patient is comfortable and cared for in the end stages of their life,” said Katy Jump, executive director of Centennial Hospice in Oklahoma City. “We're here for the patient as much as we're here for the family.”
Mrs. Knutson was in a nursing home for the last few months of her life.
After securing hospice care for her, caregivers visited her several times each week and also offered support and counseling to her family.
One very important aspect of hospice care, Mr. Knutson said, was that family support.
“It really helped me,” he said.
For example, it was a hospice caregiver who asked Knutson a powerful question: Had he given his wife permission to die?
“I hadn't thought about that,” he said. The caregiver told him that many times a patient will hang on because they're concerned about the ones they're leaving.
“So I screwed up my courage and got down there and told her I loved her and always would. And that she'd been a marvelous wife and mother,” he said, tears from missing his wife still fresh in his eyes.
According to Centennial Hospice, hospice is a unique kind of care designed to provide medical care as well as spiritual and emotional support for people who are facing a life-limiting illness. Hospice focuses on enhancing the quality of life, rather than the length of life. It affirms life and regards dying as a normal process. The goal is to ensure that patients spend their final days as comfortable and peaceful as possible. Centennial Hospice, as well as many other local hospices, rely heavily on volunteers who spend time with patients and their families, provide office help and other services. If you are interested in volunteering at Centennial Hospice, call 562-1211.