Hospice and Comfort

Post Danielle Gist, Department of Water Resources

As a child and early teen, I volunteered forty hours per week each summer at my local Naval Hospital as a ‘candy striper’ for the American Red Cross.  Through my high school years, I spent many hours at a local nursing home listening to stories, laughing and just receiving joy from the residents who didn’t have regular family visitors. I never considered this philanthropy, rather just something I did to pass time, hear living history and receive joy from those around me but as I grew older I gradually stopped volunteering. 

Beginning in July 2010, my mom began intermittently living in a skilled nursing facility and during my visits; I realized just how much the average age of the skilled nursing facility population had lowered while the number of residents had increased. I would try and assist her ‘roommates’ with whatever they needed which reminded me of how rewarding such simple gestures were for me.

My mom continued her fight for life with ‘a song in her heart and smile on her face’, no matter the pain or her decreasing ability to eat or clearly communicate.  The week before Mother’s Day 2011, she decided her fight was gone and gave me the bittersweet honor of carrying out her final wishes. Up until that time, I thought I was as strong as her but I quickly learned life has some challenges that are not to be met alone! My husband, friends, and extended family came to our (my Mom and I) side and held us through to the end but we had others with us who deserve recognition as well.  I admitted her to the Kaiser Permanente Hospice Program to take her home but her situation progressed so quickly that she was unable to leave the hospital so she was hospiced in the hospital room. 

These volunteers called on us twenty four hours each day providing her with pain medication and whatever she needed for comfort.  Not only though, did these ladies make my Mom comfortable, they also made me, my friends and extended family comfortable! By providing us with food, facial tissues, prayer, holding our hands and listening to our memories, counseling family members, preparing me for the funeral and doing whatever was necessary from hour to hour.  I remember feeling like we were in a bedroom, not a hospital room, saying goodbye to the greatest woman I ever knew. On Mother’s Day, volunteers stopped by to say hello on their way to spend the afternoon with their own mothers and children and this touched me so deeply. I couldn’t believe how much love these ladies had to give on the day that was meant for them to be honored by their loved ones.  My Mom passed early the next day after ‘spending’ one final Mother’s Day with me. It would never have been as peaceful without the care provided by the Kaiser Permanente Hospice Program.  Although, I am not a Kaiser member, I continue to receive a monthly grief informational packet from them, and will until the one year anniversary, to assist me through the grieving process.

Shortly thereafter, I was offered the opportunity to volunteer as the 2012 CSECC (now known as Our Promise) Chairperson for the Department of Water Resources and I gladly accepted the opportunity. After all, without CSECC (Our Promie) donations to the nonprofit organizations such as Kaiser Hospice, I would not have had such a positive experience at such a hard time in my life.  During the 2012 campaign, I was able to visit a couple of the local nonprofits and see for myself the results that the annual campaign brings. I soon realized how much people within my Department, Agency and the State give back to our wonderful communities by donating money and time to the nonprofit organizations of their choice.  I also found the family atmosphere of the campaign staff to be welcoming, sharing and kind reminding me of the importance of philanthropy. 

The CSECC (Our Promise) community as a whole places others first and it quickly became glaringly obvious to me that everyone involved had the same mission: to help others within the community.  CSECC (Our Promise) has afforded me the opportunity to give back and I will continue to participate in CSECC (Our Promise) throughout my career and I am once again looking to return to volunteering. 

Thank you, CSECC (Our Promise), for returning me to my roots!