Making peace on the night shift
For 10 days, the Crowley* family sat vigil. Their patriarch was living out his last weeks at the Angela Hospice Care Center, and they were with him 24/7, even staying overnight. They brought groceries and prepared meals. His daughters, son, and their spouses shared all sorts of remembrances with the caregivers on staff.
When Mr. Crowley passed away, it was almost like his family didn’t want to leave. The Care Center had been such a welcoming home-away-from-home for them and their father. They felt nurtured and cared for.
This is why nurse Lisa Udell does what she does.
“They were just so incredibly appreciative… ‘Everyone is just so wonderful here, and you guys took such great care of him. We just feel so blessed that this is where he wound up spending his end of life, it couldn’t have been better.’ It’s nice to hear that,” Lisa said. “To know that we were appreciated, I think that is all anyone wants to know, that your work was noticed.”
Lisa has been with Angela Hospice for 17 years. Now on the midnight shift, she’s found her true calling.
“I think the midnight shift can be a very peaceful and intimate exchange of knowledge and feelings,” said Lisa, who often finds herself providing reassurance for family members facing complex emotions.
“This is an emotional, turbulent journey, and all your feelings are valid,” she said. She lets families know it’s OK to feel what they are feeling, and they won’t be judged for it.
Like Lisa, nurse Marie Diffenderfer is grateful to be able to support families as they cope with a loved one’s illness.
“I just try to bring them some sort of peace, some sort of happy remembrance,” she said.
Marie has been working the night shift at the Care Center for seven years now, and she tries to notice little things she can do to help make families feel supported and cared for.
“They’re always so delighted with the care we give here,” she said. “Our care standards are high… I don’t think there’s anywhere as nice as here.”
But what about those tough cases? For Marie, it’s seeing the youngest patients, who don’t feel like it’s their time to go yet, that are the hardest.
“I mean, it’s sad, regardless of how you shake it, but I can’t look at the sadness. I’m here for something else. I’m here to make it peaceful,” Marie said. “One of my favorite parts about hospice nursing is I really feel like I’m making a difference.”
Erica Bradford joined the team just a year ago, but she’s been a nurse for 17 years. At Angela Hospice, she knows she’s found something really special.
“I’ve always had a passion for taking care of people,” Erica said. “I found a place where my purpose and my passion as a nurse can come as one, and that’s never happened before.”
Erica, Lisa, and Marie hope they can help families find the blessing, to see something positive in their experience.
Lisa said whenever she tells someone she’s a hospice nurse, they assume it must be depressing, but it’s actually the opposite.
“It’s so much more rewarding when you have time to spend with families, to be able to help them cope with all these things that are happening – and they so badly want to control it and you just can’t. It is just a great feeling… when you know you finally have given them an analogy that they get, that makes this process something that they can see as a positive thing,” Lisa said.
After Mr. Crowley died, one of his daughters came to Lisa with a request. She wanted to take a cutting from a plant that was in the hallway near where her father stayed.
“She was like, ‘I just would really like something to remember my dad by,’” Lisa recalled. She handed her the scissors. “It was going to bring her some kind of relief, of knowing that this was a great experience.”
*Patient name changed to respect privacy.
If you’ve ever visited the Angela Hospice Care Center at night, there is a certain hallowed peace that permeates the halls. But while all may seem quiet, it’s actually the tireless dedication of the caregiving team that makes the Care Center such a comforting haven for patients and families. Perhaps that’s why the caregivers on duty are often called “angels” by those who witness their caring and compassion.
That’s not the whole story though, because without generous donors and community supporters, this wonderful place would not exist. Most hospice organizations don’t offer an inpatient facility like the Care Center, because of the added expense. But at Angela Hospice, we’ve seen what a godsend the Care Center is for families who need that specialized care. Your donations toward the Care Center help fund room and board fees not covered by insurance, as well as hospice care for the uninsured/underinsured, and those without financial resources. Your gift can help make the end of life a peaceful time for patients and the people who love them.
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