Saturday, January 18, 2014
Funny Hospice Caregiving Stories
Look at this face. If you think hospice patients and their caregivers are never this happy, you don’t know jack about hospice care. Whenever I tell people I’m a hospice volunteer, they usually respond with strong empathy for the difficult and sad work I must be doing. They also imply that I'm close to sainthood for accepting such depressing assignments. This always amuses me because I don’t find hospice volunteering difficult or sad. In fact, most days are pretty upbeat with challenges that are usually interesting. True service is always win-win. I’m a regular person doing what millions of people do in their own ways, and that is volunteer service.
Humor has a lot do with the kinds of interactions my patients and I share. People say I'm funny, but my terminally ill patients are often funnier, not only with me, but with others with whom they have contact. A very engaging patient shared many hilarious stories about her life. Some days she’d just reminisce and have us both cracking up, especially when she talked about the bear chasing her in circles around her house in a rural area. A male patient and his three roommates teased one another so much, it was unlimited laughter every time I visited them at the nursing home. My hospice patient who could barely speak was the ringleader. Oh, I can’t forget the two ladies having a pretend fight from their wheelchairs. I still haven't figured out who won, but it was more entertaining than “Saturday Night Live.” Another patient’s bedside birthday party with a menu of fried chicken livers, red velvet cake, and ice cream was another winner! Of course, one birthday balloon read, “It’s a boy!” What? Did my ninety-year-old hospice patient just have a baby?
These are just a few of hundreds of funny hospice stories that make me grin. If you have been a hospice caregiver, you have probably accumulated many stories of your own. Humor has health outcomes that can benefit everyone, including those who are terminally ill and their caregivers. Healthcare workers and patients should cherish these moments of laughter. Made you smile, didn’t they?
Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.