Providing Quality End of Life Care to Families in Western PA
By Kathleen Ganster
It is easy to think about only the patient when hospice care enters the picture, but care involves so much more. It involves care of the loved ones close to the patient.
And that includes of course, providing their loved one with the best possible medical care, but also paying attention to their needs.
When the Hondal and Waseleski family had to obtain hospice care services for their wife and mother, Eleanore, Gateway Hospice led the way for the family through this phase of her life.
“We couldn’t have done it without them. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but they walked the walk, not just talked,” said Saundra Waseleski, daughter of Eleanore.
Eleanore had suffered from Alzheimer’s for years, but she was able to remain at home, cared for by her beloved husband, Joe.
“Then my mom lost her ability to walk and was admitted to the hospital for tests,” Waseleski said. It was the beginning of a difficult stage for the family as Eleanore’s health deteriorated and they realized they needed more assistance to keep her at home for the remaining stage of her life, something important to the family.
Recommended by the family’s physician, Gateway Hospice met with the family while Eleanore was still hospitalized.
“The social worker paid us a visit and explained the philosophy of hospice, the services available to Mom through Gateway, and the roles of the various caregivers who we would come to know in the weeks ahead,” she said.
That referral by their physician made a world of difference to the family.
“We arranged for their services – a very easy process – and they were there as soon as we brought Mom home to the house she loved,” Waseleski said.
While the family had developed routines to help her mother with coping with Alzheimer’s before her health deteriorated, now they had to learn a whole new wealth of skills and create new routines. The nurses, social worker and other Gateway Hospice employees lead the way.
The nurse helped Waseleski and her father learn how to care for Eleanore including proper wound care, giving personal care and even preparing food the correct consistency.
“Who knew there were different consistencies of pureed food,” Waseleski laughed.
The social worker helped them with the other sides of care.
“She helped us walk though the services Mom would receive and she reminded us that, in addition to the visits by nurses, aides, social worker and chaplain, Gateway was only a call away if we had a question or an emergency,” she said.
Waseleski said the initial hours after her mother was released from the hospital were “mentally exhausting for Dad and me.”
Having the Gateway team next to them made the whole process easier.
“Through those first hours, the social worker was extraordinarily comforting, demonstrating care for all of us and a willingness to answer any questions that we had,” she said.
The visit from the Gateway Chaplin the next day helped ease their minds in other ways.
“We were appreciative of the spiritual care and comfort he provided,” Waseleski said.
As Eleanore’s final phase of life progressed, the family came to know and depend on the Gateway Hospice caregivers as they became part of the new routine of care.
“Everyone from Gateway was extremely respectful of how life was changing for everyone in our family unit,” she said.
And while the care of her mother was the most important focus of the hospice care, the care and attention to her father, her brother Tim, and herself were also important.
“They were obviously very skilled, but what stood out were their empathy, their patience, their sensitivity and their willingness to listen,” she said.
The caregivers became an integral part of their lives during the last two months of Eleanore’s life.
“We looked forward to their visits. We needed their reassurance, their professionalism and their grounded conversation,” said Waseleski.
In her words, they became part of the family.
“They became our newest family members, one who primarily cared for Mom, but who, by extension, cared for us as well,” she said.
When Mrs. Hondal died on January 18th, the Gateway Hospice caregivers assisted the family through yet another difficult time. “Our night nurse helped us through the next few hours and helped us deal with our tears and the tasks at hand – she even called the funeral director. We didn’t know what to do,” she said.
A year later, Waseleski said that the bereavement care was also an important service for the family. As she looks back at that phase in her family’s life, she realizes the impact those caregivers had made in their lives.
“We have made a place for them in all of our hearts. Gateway helped us through one of the most difficult parts of lie,” she said, “They are exceptional human beings and professionals.”
For more information on Gateway Hospice services visit www.gatewayhospice.com or 412-536-2020.