One Extra Hour

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No matter the circumstance, the time hospice personnel spend with those they serve is precious.

By Rafael J. Sciullo, MA, LCSW, MS

We turned our clocks ahead on March 11 for Daylight Savings Time, gaining that coveted “extra hour” that has become a rite of spring.

Beyond the actual daylight, the move seems to have a profound psychological effect. The extra hour helps shake the winter doldrums improves the overall mood of the population.

In end-of-life care, an extra hour can mean so much more.

Josephine was a hospice patient who cherished her extra hours. She did not have much in the way of family, so her team from Family Hospice and Palliative Care were like family to her. Diagnosed with ALS, she eventually suffered from the limited mobility that comes with the disease. But, Josephine did not allow ALS to stop her from enjoying her “extra hours.”

Josephine welcomed the opportunity to experience the full continuum of care offered by Family Hospice. Of course, she received regular visits by our clinical staff and social workers – but also took part in expressive art and music, received massage and physical therapy, spiritual care counseling, and she looked forward to the visits she received from Family Hospice volunteers.

Never shy to express what she was feeling, Josephine would often ask some of her Family Hospice team members for that extra hour.

There was the time that Leonard, her Family Hospice spiritual care specialist, was visiting. The two enjoyed a lengthy discussion about a number of meaningful topics. Sensing their time was just about up, Josephine asked: “There is so much more I want to discuss, can you stay an extra hour?”

“Well,” Leonard replied, “you are my last scheduled appointment for the day – so yes, let’s keep this conversation going.”

And the visits by our volunteers were always a highlight. Josephine loved sharing favorite memories and common interests with her volunteer visitors. The conversations were so enjoyable that time flew right by.

“Would you stay an extra hour with me?” Josephine would ask. Her volunteers enjoyed the time together as much as she did.

While not every hospice worker always has extra time, it’s what we do with that time that matters. Through its various services, hospice helps patients and their loved ones make the most of every day through meaningful engagement and enrichment. It is our goal that every staffer makes a difference, by serving patients and families with compassion and respect.

An hour’s time can be significant. Sixty minutes of football decides a champion. Sixty minutes of news brings us up-to-date on the day’s happenings. Old friends can get together for coffee and catch up over the course of an hour. And an hour in the garden can brighten the look of your home.

We try to never lose sight of the significant things that can be accomplished in an hour’s time. It may be as simple as one of our nurses taking the time to explain the benefits of hospice and answering the questions of concerned family members. Or a social worker making sure a patient receives all of the services and benefits that they possibly can. And it could be the time spent between our bereavement counselor and a loved one who is grieving. That time means something different to each person – and to each it is precious in a unique way,

Josephine passed away with a Family Hospice volunteer at her bedside – and with a faint smile on her face. She felt blessed to enjoy so many “extra hours” with her friends and caregivers.

Rafael J. Sciullo, MA, LCSW, MS, is President and CEO of Family Hospice and Palliative Care and Past Chairperson of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. He may be reached at rsciullo@familyhospice.com or (412) 572-8800. Family Hospice and Palliative Care serves nine counties in Western Pennsylvania. More information at www.familyhospice.com and www.facebook.com/familyhospicepa.