Why Not?

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Sep13_FinalRule_ivanko headshot copyBy Barbara Ivanko

The photo in our local papers early this month brought a smile to my face. A woman from Green Tree named Marie celebrated her 104th birthday with a visit to Santa Claus. The photo showed Marie atop Santa’s lap at The Mall at Robinson – both of them smiling with joy.  This marked the sixth straight year that Marie spent her birthday with St. Nick.

At first glance of the photo, I instantly loved her spirit, her enthusiasm and her attitude. Marie took her place in line at the mall and made sure she enjoyed every minute of her visit.

And why not?

There are no rules stating that at a certain age, we’re too old to visit Santa Claus. In the true spirit of the holidays, he welcomes everyone with equal enthusiasm. There is no age limit on making a wish list, or dreaming about something special, or doing what you love.

A few years ago, Marie thought the same thing: Why not? Why not visit Santa as part of her birthday celebration? Why not give him her wish list?

Embracing the things they love enhances quality of life for hospice patients.
Embracing the things they love enhances quality of life for hospice patients.

At Family Hospice and Palliative Care, we feel the same way. While we know that there are no age limits to those who deal with life-limiting illness – there’s also no limit to our efforts in helping every patient make the most of life.

Every patient able to do so is encouraged to embrace the things in life that make him or her happy. For some, it may be time with loved ones. For others, it may be renewal of marriage vows with their spouse. And some others may find happiness in special outings to events, popular destinations, or even Santa’s lap.

That’s one of the beautiful things about hospice. Compassionate end-of-life care is not about giving up; it’s not about being hooked up to multiple machines; and it’s not a place where people “go to die.”

Hospice embraces the kind of spirit that Marie shows. Hospice is all about making your own health care choices; spending quality time with those you love; and living every day to its fullest.

Karen Wyatt, a physician and author of What Really Matters, 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying, is quoted as saying: “Everything around us is going to have an end. Once we know that, as the dying person does, we savor life more, instead of focusing on what will happen down the road.”

How true! It’s all about perspective. It’s all about how we choose to live our lives.

As we look forward to 2014, and make the traditional New Year resolutions, we have the opportunity not only to live our lives to the fullest, but to help those around us do the same.

Let’s share our life’s wish list with someone special.  Let’s join Marie in proclaiming “why not” as we embrace each new day.

On behalf of the staff and board of directors at Family Hospice and Palliative Care, I extend our warmest wishes for the new year.

Barbara Ivanko is President and CEO of Family Hospice and Palliative Care. She has more than 20 years experience in the health care and hospice and is an active member of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. She may be reached at bivanko@familyhospice.com or (412) 572-8800. Family Hospice and Palliative Care is a non-profit organization serving nine counties in Western Pennsylvania. More information at www.FamilyHospice.com and www.facebook.com/FamilyHospicePA.