Celebration of Life and Music
One wonderful aspect of hospice is the ability for nurses to be flexible and to carry out a patient’s wishes. Laurie Dean, an RN from AseraCare in Altoona, Pa., can attest to the fact that nurses have to be prepared for anything. “John had been a physician before he went into renal failure and decline. Upon leaving the hospital, he wanted to die at home. I was to meet the ambulance in rural Pennsylvania that night and admit him into hospice. The ambulance had kept his meds going during the journey, but left just a tank of oxygen for his hospice needs when it dropped him off. “I didn’t arrive until around 8 p.m. because I couldn’t find the house. It turns out there was no house — this was land where he and his wife wanted to build a home and now it was where he wanted to pass away. There was a kind of camp shed for equipment storage, but no electricity, no heat, no water.
“The ambulance was gone when I arrived, and John was sitting in a lawn chair, half in and half out of consciousness. About 20 family members were gathered around a huge bonfire. They had hung lanterns and there were pots of chili and marshmallows. “I have been trained to take care of situations that aren’t normal, so I went ahead and admitted John to hospice by flashlight. He was in pain and wasn’t able to swallow the pills that his wife had for him, so I crushed them and made them into a paste to put under his tongue to make him more comfortable.
I used lotions for skin care and freshened him. I put his flannel shirt on him and made him look like himself. “We found a cot for John, and his wife crawled in next to him. The family and I talked about the dying process. Everyone gathered around, playing guitars and singing and telling stories. It was a full moon on a beautiful April night. Every star in the sky was brilliant. “A nephew sang a song he had written about angels who walk among us, and as he sang, John slipped away around 4 a.m. with his wife curled around him. The peace that came over both of them was phenomenal.