Welcome to House of Light, a blog produced and managed by the staff of Casa de la Luz Hospice. Casa de la Luz ("house of light" in Spanish) is a locally owned and operated hospice, serving the city and surrounding communities of Tucson, Arizona. Through this blog, we hope to offer education, information, and support about caregiving and hospice care to terminally ill patients and their loved ones. For more information, visit the contact us page.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Finding Meaningful Work Through Hospice Care

"Why are you doing that?"

"Isn’t that depressing?"

Or my favorite, "Eeeew!"

These are all responses to my answer, when I am asked, "So, what are you doing now?" Well, I am working for a Tucson hospice.  This is not the field I set out to work in.  I have an entirely unrelated degree (environmental science).  However, given our current economy, I chose to widen my scope when looking for employment.  In doing so, I discovered the quality I most desired in any potential new career was meaningfulness.  That is a big word, and it will mean different things for each of us. For me, it means doing something each day that makes a positive difference in another person’s life.  I have found that in hospice.

I am not in the field with patients or their families, and I rarely get to meet them face to face.  Yet it is unmistakable, even over the phone, when you have touched someone in a positive way.   Hospice is a very unique community. You are thrust into the middle of a family when they are at their most vulnerable.  You become, for many, a part of their family, a friend who listens, and a helping hand in a time when they might feel hopeless and their lives as they know them, have come to a halt.   You cannot overestimate the relief a caregiver expresses, when they are told the equipment or medication their loved one needs to feel comfortable is on the way, even though it is 3 p.m. on a Friday. 

Or, that their nurse is on the way.

Or, that we will be here to support them, even after their loved one has died.

There are many places to find meaningful work: discovering cures, building homes, growing a community’s food, the list is inexhaustible.  There are few places where you are also touched by your work in a meaningful way.  Let me give the example of a gentleman who called to get himself admitted to hospice.  He was a very gruff sounding man, matter of fact about his own diagnosis, and had little patience for small talk.  While asking for his information, he curtly informed me that I already had all of that information, if I would just look him up on the computer.  As it turned out, our hospice had served his wife a few years earlier.  I did not want to offend him, so I tried to be as businesslike as possible while finishing up our call, but somehow, his brush with the memory of his wife’s hospice experience opened the flood gates.  He proceeded to tearfully express his gratitude towards our hospice and the freedom it gave him to spend the last days of his wife’s life, at her side.  He ended the call with, "All of you there are angels; I just want you to know." Wow, what an uplifting thing to hear from a stranger.

Does working in hospice sometimes make me sad?  Of course.  I fear a day that I harden to our patients sorrows.  But do I get depressed?  Absolutely not.  This may sound strange to those for whom the word "hospice" makes them say "eeew," but this is my experience:  Working at a hospice is one of the most uplifting, life affirming and meaningful work experiences I have ever known.  

We all will eventually face our own death and the deaths of those we love.  This is a very scary thing if we continually shove all thoughts of death away, like a monster in the closet that grows and grows.   Yet there is something wonderful that happens to families when they begin to "live every day as if it was their last," especially when they have the support of hospice.  Old wounds and hurt feelings come out to be resolved; words of affection are used more freely; and fear of death is replaced with peace and acceptance.  In my small role, I get to help these families through this. 

Now, that is what I call meaningful.

Brandie Kiracofe, Operations Support

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