HAGERMAN • Coletta Poynter said her parents were always there for her. So when the time came for her to care for them before they died, she didn’t think twice about using hospice services to do so.
On Nov. 21, Poynter sat in the living room of the home she shared with her mother, Betty Lloyd. Poynter’s sister, Mary Egbert, sat with her. Egbert had recently arrived from her home in Plains, Mont.
Soft, rhythmic breathing emanated from a monitor on an end table near the couch.
The other monitor was in Lloyd’s bedroom. Poynter rose to check on her mother lying in bed.
“I just try to keep it peaceful,” Poynter said.
She had the curtains in the room open so soft afternoon light could flood in. On the walls above her mother’s bed were family photographs.
Poynter said it was her mother’s wish to die in her own home rather than in a hospital room.
In August, Lloyd was hospitalized for what Poynter thought was dehydration, but it turned out she had a urinary tract infection and pneumonia. She never recovered and slipped into a state of unconsciousness.
“She was really weak and disoriented,” Poynter said. “From day one she wanted to come home.”
Poynter’s father, Cleave Lloyd, died at home in April 2011. He also received hospice care.
“Dad said, ‘Just take care of me when I’m old,’” Poynter said. “After Dad passed away (Mom) lost her purpose in life.”
Betty Lloyd, 85, died Nov. 25 surrounded by family.
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With hospice care, family members are the primary caregivers, assisted and directed by nurses who come into the home.
When Betty was at the level of unconsciousness right before she died, a nurse visited twice a day.
The family used the services of Alliance Home Health, Hospice and Home Assist in Twin Falls for both Cleave and Betty Lloyd.
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, in 2011 an estimated 1.65 million patients received services from hospice.
Hospice can take place at hospice centers or even in a hospital, but the majority of patients (66.4 percent) received care in their homes in 2011.
Hospice teams work with families to develop a care plan that meets each patient’s needs for pain management and symptom control. This team can include the patient’s personal physician, hospice physician, nurses, home health aides, social workers, bereavement counselors and clergy or other spiritual counselors.
Nurses showed Poynter how to check her mother’s vitals, keep her mouth and lips moist and determine whether pain medication should be administered. Some things they told her to look at that indicate when her mother might be in pain: holding her breath or scowling.
“It’s not a 24/7 service, but we are available 24/7; we just aren’t in the home 24/7,” said Jeannie Benson, a hospice nurse with Alliance since 2002.
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On Nov. 21, Poynter said she would often sit in the room, just talking to her mother.
“I let her know it’s okay, she can go at any time, and she can be peaceful,” she said. “This whole process is part of the grieving process. Mom is here with us, but she’s not.”
Poynter said she appreciated that hospice takes care of the whole family.
“We see how the caregivers are doing as well; it’s not just limited to the actual patient,” Benson said. “Once the patient passes away we stay with them through the grieving process.”
Depending on a family’s bereavement care plan this process can mean visits, phone calls, letters, cards or a combination of these.
Benson said education is an important step in hospice. Though all hospice patients have a life expectancy less than six months, she said a misconception is that people can utilize hospice only on their deathbed.
“The comments I hear the most are, ‘I wish I called you sooner or known about you sooner,’” Benson said.
Tom Mikesell, Alliance Home Health, Hospice and Home Assist public relations and marketing director, said hospice is about building trust with families.
“Hospice isn’t about dying, it’s about living,” he said.