This could be the most important column I have ever written
Once upon a time, I thought Hospice was only for those who were near death. Maybe many of you think of Hospice that way — that when a loved one is a few weeks from death, Hospice comes in for the final hours. To my surprise, I learned, and many of you should pay attention, Hospice is much more. They take care of living, sometimes for years.
My cousin, Ann Marie Carignan, who, like her mother, was a nurse for years at The William W. Backus Hospital, now spends hundreds of hours volunteering in so many ways. It was Ann Marie, my first cousin, who told me for my wife, Peg, we should have Hospice and what a wonderful suggestion it was.
Peggy has two visits each week from registered nurses. Once each week she gets a massage by a professional masseuse, and twice each week Hospice sends volunteers so we can go shopping or at least get a break from caring for Peggy, who is so far advanced with Alzheimer’s. Now Peggy is perfectly healthy, except for her mind.
Then the people of Hospice suggested I, too, might use their services. I have a bad pulmonary condition and have trouble walking. I spend much of my time in a wheelchair or struggling with a cane, so I, too, have a nurse visit me twice each week, and I have the same wonderful massage that makes my legs feel so much better.
I benefit from the volunteers who come in twice each week, but I do even better. Because I can’t breathe, and my legs are unsteady, it is impossible for me to take a shower. So, there is a wonderful fellow who is at my door at 9:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and he gives me a shower, a shave and helps me get dressed. I cannot imagine Peggy’s and my life without Hospice.
There are so many wonderful things they do. We have arranged for living wills, which I always wanted, but never got around to doing. They provide medication for Peggy, and would you believe for all of this service, there is absolutely no charge to us? They are covered by Medicare and most insurance programs. Of course, they have fundraising events, as contributions from the public amount to 12 percent of Hospice’s budget.
For the Living
This may be the most important column I ever write for people who are older than 65, or struggling at home, or whose partner is ill, and conditions in your home may be very difficult. Call Hospice. See if you qualify, because the services are beyond belief, and it is so professional. Hospice even assists the grieving.
For example, they have a bereavement support group for children, and also for adults. You may be misinformed, as I was before Ann Marie Carignan told me to call, thinking Hospice is only for the dying. I can assure you, from my personal experience, that Hospice is very much for the living, with nurses, with volunteers, medication and those wonderful massages I so look forward to each week.
Your doctor will have to recommend you, but I assure you, it doesn’t cost anything to call and find out. Being an old guy with a very sick wife, and with difficulty walking and breathing, Hospice is nothing short of a miracle.
I always am amazed at the good some people do for others. I thought this morning I would tell you about Hospice. For example, Ann Marie Carignan and her husband, Lou, spend most of their free time working with Hospice and other humanitarian organizations.
I think so often of how Monsignor Baldwin once accumulated so much land the parishioners used to jokingly call him “The Farmer.” Some years ago, a supermarket wanted to buy the land for $3 million, but the parishioners voted it down, saying that Monsignor Baldwin didn’t buy all that land for a supermarket.
Several years ago, Father Philip Pusateri and the parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, who had turned down $3 million, gave that valuable land, free of charge, for the headquarters of Hospice here in Norwich. I am sure Monsignor Baldwin would have agreed with this gift.
Hospice in Norwich serves all of New London County, from the Rhode Island border to Old Lyme, Lebanon and Colchester.
I was reluctant to call Hospice, and you may be too. But if ever I have given advice that older people should take, I beg you to call Hospice, because if you are over 65, or even if you are younger, they have so many wonderful programs that make life so much more livable.
A Long Way
Sometimes in old age, we don’t need a lot, but an occasional volunteer, weekly visits by nurses, counseling, and in my case, a man to give me a shower three times each week, which would be impossible, are wonderful services.
I feel Hospice has done such a good job with the dying that too many of us came to think that is its only mission, and how wrong we are.
You can reach Hospice of Southeastern Connecticut, which includes all of New London County, by telephone at (860) 848-5699. That is a Montville number, but it is connected to the Norwich headquarters of Hospice. Hospice didn’t want to change the number, because so many of us were used to it.
So, give Hospice a call tomorrow to find out how you fit in the program. For my wife, Peggy, and me, Hospice is a godsend, and I want you all out there to enjoy the same loving, tender care that Hospice gives to the living — sometimes for years.