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Local Commentary: Hospice a blessing for family

By Kevin Brustuen

It's been nearly a year since I joined the family conference call concerning mother's recent doctor visit. The words "Mom has stage four liver cancer" formed a tightening noose around my neck as I struggled with this unexpected news. How could we survive without our mother? How could we possible endure? Certainly this can't be true!

A few days later, mother's oncologist met with us in her hospital room. He held her hand and explained her condition. She immediately responded with "I want no treatment" and he kindly squeezed her hand and said it was her decision to make. However, he would like her to speak with someone from hospice. A short time later, a nurse and social worker walked in. The nurse took mother's hand and said "Hello Cleone, I'm with Lakeland Hospice." With the compassion expressed with her hands, her voice, her actions, we began to find our way through the days ahead.

After the nurse and social worker explained the philosophy and services provided, we agreed to use the Lakeland Hospice program. We were especially surprised to learn that all the nurse and home health aide visits, the equipment needed, and many of the supplies, along with the medications related to mother's disease were covered by Medicare; no charge to us. We also learned hospice services can be provided in a home or nursing home; anywhere the patient calls "home."

We had wondered how we could care for our mother in her last days. In the days and hours remaining, how could we repay her for what she had done for us? How could we share our love with her?

We determined mother would receive hospice services in our sister's home. We received help, from hospice, in determining how to move mom from the hospital. A hospital bed, oxygen concentrator and other equipment and supplies were set up prior to mom's arrival. Instructions were given regarding medications and how to care for mom, with love and compassion. The nurse kept in touch with mom's family physician and the oncologist so we always knew they were involved in her care. We learned what to expect, our questions were answered, and mother was reassured as well as us kids. The hospice staff helped to give us the strength we needed to make the most of the time we were given.

When the end came sooner than expected, hospice sent a nurse to be with us, and she was present as we talked mother through from this earthly world to her next world. What a privilege it was for us to be able to spend her last days together, in a home she loved and was comfortable in, and where each of us was also comfortable.

Death is part of life, and leaving this world is natural. Taking this journey was a blessing beyond what any of us could have possibly understood. This journey would not have been possible without the help, caring, compassion, and assistance of Lakeland Hospice. It was a privilege and an honor to care for our mother, as she had cared for us all our lives. Thank you Vivian, Colleen, Vickie, Brenda, Robi, and Lakeland Hospice, for helping us make this happen.

Kevin Brustuen, a Morris native, submitted this article on behalf of the Cleone Brustuen family, also of Morris.