Peg Kelly fought three different types of cancer over ten years. Towards the end of the decade her chemotherapy was designed more to reduce her discomfort than eradicate the cancer, because she was dying. She and her husband, Dennis, called the Lake Sunapee Region VNA & Hospice, who had been providing at-home service to Peg as she battled the cancer. This time when the Kellys called, they asked about the hospice service.
There are few certainties in the world, but death is one of them. As Dennis says, “it’s going to happen, we all know it’s going to happen so this takes the worry out of it.” “This” is hospice. “The visiting nurse at first would come in a couple of times a week, then it became three times a week, based on what I felt our needs were.”
Hospice services are more than simply checking blood pressure, fluffing pillows and administering pills. Dennis explains “the real strength of the organization was a willingness to give any help in many many forms you’d never suspect.” The VNA organizes nurses and volunteers to “do all sorts of things, clean your house, allow you to get out of the house, go to the grocery store - there was a woman that would come in and help my wife with bathing.” They can take care of the many chores that occupy us on a daily or weekly basis “so you can focus on taking care of your mate.”
And all this help enabled the most important thing to the couple, Peg’s wish to die at home. “She was a very active person,” says Dennis. “Her two real passions were kayaking and gardening. When she died she was in her favorite chair in her favorite room overlooking her gardens. That’s a comforting thought.”
Dennis had worked with hospice before with other relatives, but they were involved much earlier with Peg, “and it made the whole process so much easier. It gives you peace of mind.” There is a common perception that hospice is only available or recommended in the last few days of a loved one’s life, but Dennis encourages people to involve hospice much earlier. “They’ll make sure there’s someone to help you if you don’t have a friend or relative. You don’t have to feel like you’re alone in this process.”