Hospice work is unlike any other area in healthcare because we see most patients and families in their own home settings. We become guests in homes all across the East Bay, learning house rules and how each one communicates.
When orienting new staff members for Hospice East Bay, we stress the importance of both learning and teaching. We teach family members how to care for patients. We teach patients how to use their adjustable beds or introduce oxygen for the first time. We teach everything from how to safely transfer from bed to chair to how to manage medications.
Before we can teach, however, we first need to learn. We may be experts in end-of-life care, but patients and families are experts on themselves. We learn what matters most to them. We learn about their hopes, their fears, their strengths, and their ways of coping. We have many tools in our toolkits, but to really know which ones to use, we start as learners.
At Hospice East Bay, our encounters with patients are human ones. We want to hear their stories. We want to know what has shaped their lives. Are they veterans? Have they always lived alone? Have they experienced many losses in their lives? Do they have a spiritual practice they turn to? Are there family members with whom they’ve lost contact? All this knowledge shapes our care.
In the process, we learn lessons from our patients and families, lessons we carry with us for years. This mutual impact is a hallmark of hospice care. It’s been said that hospice staff become living legacies of their patients, because we carry pieces of them with us throughout our lives. We remember their stories because we care to hear them. Our lives are often changed by meeting people we would never have met, if not for this work.
At Hospice East Bay, we genuinely care about making each end-of-life experience the best it can be for every one of our patients. We learn and we teach. We stay present, attentive and always “here when you need us.”