A Personal Perspective
BY MARCIA MOXAM COMRIE
Last summer, I visited a hospice for the first time when an elderly friend was a patient at a Long Island hospital and released to the hospice wing. Last week, I learned that Jamaica Hospital opened a hospice center.
If you have never visited a hospice, you’ll probably think of it as a fearsome place since it is where “people go to die.”
But that is an over simplification of what a hospice is.
After seeing my friend, a beloved military veteran, in hospice last year, I realized that it is not a place to fear, but for which to be thankful. It is indeed where people go when the doctors declare there is nothing further that can be done to save or prolong the patient’s life.
They are sent to hospice for “comfort care,” which means that they don’t have much time left, but their needs are such that they should not be sent home, unless there is equal provision for care in that private setting.
It is a difficult decision for any family to make. Hospice care can be done in a person’s home on a visiting nurse basis.
But being in a professional center provides a more holistic approach. This is why last week’s news about Jamaica Hospital opening such a unit—as featured in the June 23-29 edition of this publication—was good news.
There was nothing further that could have been done for my friend as a hospital patient last year. He was simply receiving the best “comfort care” that could be provided by transporting him over to the hospice wing. His situation was sudden and unexpected, but most hospice patients are there following a protracted, terminal illness.
The patient gets to spend their last phase of life being made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.
They are able to die with dignity and it frees up their families to continue their own daily routines, such as earning a living and taking care of their children or elderly relatives as the case may be.
It is the reason we can be grateful that Jamaica Hospital, one of the most important in Queens, was able to cut the ribbon on its facility. This is a crucial part of medical care that the public doesn’t generally think about until it is personally needed.
By no means is this the first hospice facility in Queens, but it is the newest and closest to our part of the borough. This shiny, new, state-of-the-art resource will be more convenient for residents and families in Southeast Queens if and when they need it.
While visiting my friend in that Long Island hospice last year, I noticed something else that was remarkable: the staff was, for all intents and purposes, taking care of his wife as well. As an elderly lady in a wheel chair, she was stuck in that room with her husband—after their daughter dropped her off—until she returned for her in the evenings.
The staff was gentle and helpful, but not just with her emotional and social needs. They also made sure that she had a hot meal. No one wants to have to see a loved one go into a hospice since the interpretation is ominous. But it is an important option to have—if or when the time comes.
Death is inevitable, but suffering is manageable with the right care. Now it is available in Jamaica. Kudos to Jamaica Hospital for meeting this need.