Hospice: My Journey Continues

"Make the Most of Every Moment." That is the slogan printed on a blue rubber wrist band given to me by my new friends at Capital Caring Hospice. I proudly wear the bracelet and am struggling to make the most out of my remaining time on earth. I also like the other Hospice slogans, such as we are people "who have more yesterdays than tomorrows," and "making bucket list dreams come true."

I have struggled with a rare Parkinson Plus disease for about five years, and have been an outpatient of Capital Caring for six months. Most of their patients are fortunate enough to live at home for as long as possible. Hospice sends in teams of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and care givers. There is also medicine and medical equipment, as needed.

When I first came to Hospice in August I was sick, weak, and in terrible pain. The care I received at Hospice made me feel better for a while and gave me peace of mind. But this old body, which has survived incredible experiences, is giving way on me. I am trying hard to fight it -- I have a lot to live for, including the wedding of one son and two beautiful grandchildren from the other son.
When patients can no longer live at home, they have the option of going to a hospice residence. The one I visited in Arlington, Virginia was clean, bright, and had plenty of space for family, friends, and pets to visit. The neighbors welcome it and many volunteer help out in a variety of ways.

I was taken on a tour by a remarkable woman. Carolyn Richar is the General Manager. She is also an Ordained Pastor and a Registered Nurse. I asked her to contribute to this article. This is what she wrote:

Capital Caring's Halquist Memorial Inpatient Unit provides acute hospital care in a 15 bed stand alone facility in the heart of Arlington. Opened in 1982, this historical inpatient facility (oldest ongoing hospice facility in the United States) provides compassionate expert clinical care for hospice patients in severe pain, struggling to breathe or otherwise unable to achieve comfort in their home setting. Staffed with board certified physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, volunteers and a social worker and chaplain, this facility has a place of comfort and hope for thousands of hospice patients in the past 34 years.

The facility itself is less like a hospital and more like one of the colonial homes that surround it in North Arlington. It offers families the ability to visit 24 hours a day -- and even bring along small children and pets for a visit. A beautiful gazebo surrounded by a three season garden welcomes patients and visitors outside when the weather is good. Inside, the atmosphere is quiet and calm even with the volunteers, musicians and therapy dogs that drop by for patient visits. There is a large family room, a family kitchen area and a smaller "parlor" that offer patients and families the chance to bring home into the inpatient center. That all being said, what is truly amazing about this facility is their ability to significantly relieve severe symptoms typically within 24 hours of less -- so patients can focus on living well.

In addition to Carolyn, my visit was arranged by James Rice, the Vice President of Telecaring and Navigation, and Gustavo Pascale, the Director of the Care Navigation Center. They drove me around and taught me about their amazing organization. I met many of the people, including the compassionate ladies in the Telecaring Center in Merrifield. They are the kind ladies who call each day to ask if I am ok, or need any medical care. The women I met included Mary Pamela McKinley, and nurses Connie Whaley, Lara Flores, and Marianne Turner.

I am amazed at the kindness, professionalism, and high education level of the people I met. They can do anything but they have chosen to work with sick people who are in pain. I could not have done that. I am certain they have earned their place in Heaven.