By Carolee Steelman, Avow volunteer –
Okay, I’ll admit it: I thought I knew a lot about hospice after years of volunteering for Avow. But when my own wonderful mother became an Avow patient, I finally understood what it’s like to need the kind of care Avow offers… and I did need it, badly, as much as she did.
Mom started showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease about seven years ago. At first the changes were subtle, but over time she became more confused and disoriented … every day we seemed to lose a little more of the sweet-natured woman who had organized and guided our family with humor and love.
When it was time for hospice, naturally I called Avow, thinking I knew the program “inside out” from my years of volunteering. I’ve even sat at the bedside of many patients, so I thought I was prepared for what it’s like to have a loved one in hospice care.
I could not have been more wrong.
When it’s your Mom who’s sick, all the roles you play go out the window and suddenly the only thing you are is your parent’s child. Avow helped me cope with so many feelings … my deep sorrow when Mom no longer recognized who I was … my concern over how Dad would cope on his own … my sadness that my kids won’t have “Grammy” at their graduations and weddings, reunions or any of the other celebrations that bring a family together.
Even though I knew what to expect in hospice, I was amazed at the skill and tenderness of the Avow team members who cared for Mom. They treated her with the same dignity they would have shown their own mothers. Mom and Dad really liked Sarah, the music therapist; Sarah would play and sing the songs from their courting days. Mom always relaxed when Sarah was there – we could see a glimmer of the person she used to be as her fingers tapped lightly to the music and her lips curled into the slightest smile. That meant a lot to all of us after watching her slip away a little at a time for years.
Mom passed away two years ago and our family is making our way back to normal … something we never could have done without Avow’s help.
Ways Avow Can Help
. provide the added support needed so late-stage Alzheimer’s patients can stay at home – wherever home may be including assisted living and nursing facilities
. work with families or facility staff to help manage symptoms and focus on comfort
. offer music therapy to increase quality of life and bring peace
. early bereavement and grief support for family members
To learn more about hospice care provided by Avow, visit www.avowcares.org or call 239-261-4404.