Guest Blog: Carly Nichols, CareFirst

“Hospice“.  If we were to do a word association, terms like illness, time, death, and grief may come to the surface.  And you wouldn’t be wrong.  Those are all parts of hospice care. 

However, those of us who work for CareFirst and are lucky enough to serve our community in such a meaningful way, Hospice also means life. Yes, life. And, other words come to mind too.  Words like love, laughter, quality, and time. There it is again. Time. You see, hospice is more than end of life. It’s about helping patients be comfortable, free of pain, and emotionally and spiritually secure, so that they can truly enjoy what is most important to them. Time, then, is not so much about what is left, but how meaningful it can be.

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CareFirst is a team of nurses, social workers, grief counselors, volunteers, chaplains, and administrative staff who make it our mission every day to support our patients and their families. We are grateful and honored to be welcomed into the homes and lives of so many at such a vulnerable time. We are blessed enough to serve so many amazing families. One of them is a couple in their early 70’s, who have openly embraced our staff and support offered, and have continued to inspire us from day one.

The patient, often described as “brilliant” by his loving wife and those who know him best, came onto hospice services in December of 2016 as a result of heart disease. As you can imagine, this was a difficult and scary time for both he and his wife. Through the support of our team, and their courage, his pain management was improved, open and honest conversations about end of life were initiated, and his wife sought anticipatory grief counseling to address her own emotional needs. 

Week by week, and month by month, this man has continued to surpass his “expiration date” as he likes to call it; evidence of he and his wife’s ability to find humor in even the most difficult of situations. They have worked together to make the most of their gift of time. His wife will be the first to admit that her strength is not in the kitchen. So, they have begun “cooking classes”, where he teaches her step by step how to prepare their favorite meals. They have reviewed all of their financial responsibilities together, so that she is comfortable taking over when the time comes. She has faithfully come to grief counseling to individually tackle the emotional difficultly related to walking beside someone with a serious, life limiting illness. They have spent more quality time together, watching TV in bed, and enjoying each other’s company.  Not only has he had the opportunity to reclaim time with his wife, his emotional journey has taken him to a place which has allowed him to open up with his children and grandchildren, preparing them all for what lies ahead. 

Through all of this, they have remained overwhelmingly grateful for the support they have received from our team. Just a few weeks ago, we received a donation and heartfelt letter which in part read, “This Christmas I’m filled with joy that he is still with me, that life has gone on and that I have learned to make the most of every day we continue to share”. With words like these, we are reminded yet again that we are the ones who are truly grateful. Grateful to both of them for opening their home and their hearts. Grateful for their continued kindness and generosity. Grateful that they chose their hospice experience to be one filled with love, honesty, happiness, laughter, and yes, life.