What is hospice? It’s having somebody by your side. It’s comfort. It’s having that quality of life versus that quantity. Even if you only have two weeks left, to not be sick, to not be in pain – that quality means so much.

Yolanda Meadowcroft, RN, CHPN

Clinical Manager, Inpatient Hospice Center, Christiana Hospital

Beach Lover, Mom of Grad Student

Families think hospice is a death sentence. It is not. There needs to be more education on hospice.

Families and patients come first

The body is a remarkable system – what it can do even as the end of life is approaching. Trying to explain that to families is the hardest part. You have to be very up front with them about what is going to happen to their loved one. It’s not always easy to hear.

The doctors we work with go over the steps of the dying process so families are prepared. There’s also a book, “Gone From My Sight,” that helps them be prepared. It describes changes in breathing, skin coloring, level of consciousness that are normal steps as people are dying.

Our job is to help them through that. We get the sickest patients up here – those on ventilators, with IV infusions. It’s high acuity here. Sometimes, it feels like an ER. One of the most important things to me is that I may be the last soft voice they may hear and the last soft touch they may feel.

‘We grieve too’

I have been here for 15 years. I did long-term care and then got into the hospice aspect of it. I was always taught that families and patients come first. That’s my mission always. Even after they pass away, I call and check on their families. A follow-up call means so much.

You have to build trust with families. You do that with comfort, comfort, comfort. The families make it so that we continue. They thank us. They write things to us that make us want to continue to do our jobs. The stories they tell during memorial services or even to senators – your reputation carries you.

We are not numb to it. We grieve, too. But we have social workers and chaplains we are able to call if we need them. We always have support. We cry.

My life revolves around my job because I love it so much. I feel good most of the time when I leave work, feeling that I did a good job and the families appreciate me. That’s what keeps me going.