As the World Longs for Care
My book, “I’m Here for the Bath”, a collection of short stories chronicling my experiences as a hospice aide, is a combination of memoir and my depiction of some of the experiences I witnessed people having during the life event commonly known as death.
At the time of this writing, I have been working as a hospice aide for over three decades. During that time, I’ve had many experiences that touched me deeply. When I am with people experiencing end of life issues I often speak from my experience when I feel it would be helpful.
The idea to share my stories with others in a book, to make them available to people looking for answers to their questions about what really happens at the bedside of someone who is dying, was a “someday” kind of idea. I thought I would perhaps write a memoir when I retired and had more time. As life often does my someday book, idea came to fruition earlier than planned, when I was injured and needed to rest for a few months. The sudden time to myself allowed the memoir idea to move up on my mental “to do” list. When I tell people that the book went from idea to published work in six months, they are often very surprised. I have since met authors that spent years and sometimes decades writing their books. I did not know enough to be intimidated by the challenge of writing a book. I just started in and began to write.
When I sat down in front of my computer, like I am now, the many people and the memories of their time with me all came swirling up to be included. I would recall a patient I had cared for and then write a short title about them; “Black Berry Cake” (#25), or “Telling the Daughter” (#27). I just let the memories flow and wrote a short sentence about each one. When I came up for air, there were over 50 title sentences in my computer. I then went back to the top and began to fill in each story with what I remembered about it. More importantly, I began to write about what it meant to me personally and what life lessons I learned from the people I came to care for and their families.
Having someone admitted to a hospice program is like most life events. People adapt the lives they are living to include it. People learn to cope with an end of life experience in much the same way they do when a third child arrives unexpectedly or the new computer system at work needs to be learned. They make new challenges and situations part of their everyday life. I find that most people don’t look at somebody dying in this way and I often help them learn how they can have the hospice experience become part of their everyday life.
When someone is admitted to a hospice program the experience for everyone involved is very similar to entering a marathon of some kind, with the exceptions that the length of the marathon and what the finish line will look like are unknown. The best course of action in my opinion is to stay focused on the present day and keep going, taking the time to applaud the challenges met and not get ahead of things by trying to second guess the future or avoid what may happen. Guess and avoid are not necessary when working with what is in the present moment. The outcome of any present situation is immediate and workable in a way that future events are not. I have found that people reading my book often find the answer to something they are dealing with in their current hospice experience. Everything from how to give a shampoo to a bedbound patient, (#31 Apple Cake), to giving a bed bath (#20 The Well Endowed Man), to what to feed a desert turtle (#37 Homer the Footstool).
The idea of death and dying being included as part of everyday life is an idea welcomed by many people. Thanks to social media, the human race is connected to each other more than ever, and death and dying have become part of the news feed we have access to every day. The hospice care provided (or not) around the world is discussed and reviewed in a way that I find wonderful. Discussions of assisted suicide known sometimes as the end of life option are common now and legal in many parts of the United States and around the world. In my book the death of the people I have written about is told in an intimate and simple way that gives a clear view of the death bed that is often absent from books about end of life that are written by clinical experts or family members. I have been in the perfect position to see up close and personal what really goes on at the end of life and to share it not from the position of a doctor or priest or family member but as a caregiver who is there to support the hospice patient and the people around them in an unscripted and personalized way. Many of the stories have a spiritual component; (#15 Beating the odds Again), (#16 The Bishop and the Crown Victoria), or (#34 The Far Away Sister). The animals and pets in people’s lives are such an important part of many of the stories; (#8 The Bread Eating Deer), (#30 The Old Dog and the Rainy Day), or (#47 The Hungry Cat).
I have written “I’m Here for the Bath” as a tribute to ALL of the patients I have cared for over the years, the friends and family I was with at the bedside; (# 36 Twin Brothers) and (#42 True Love). I have written my book to acknowledge all the people I have worked with (# 53 Registered Nurses), (#1 My First Day on the Job), and (#51 Doing for Ruby). There are some funny stories; (#40 The Naked Man in the Window) and (#48 The Bat-Eating Dachshund). Some tough stories; (#11 Three Visits) and (#13 The Cattle Drive). All of the stories touched me deeply and to my great pleasure, helped and supported people as they faced death and dying, one of the biggest milestone challenges anyone ever faces.
Anyone seeking caregiver support and advice from me can write to me at [email protected]
Follow me on facebook, twitter and linkedin as well as my website www.imhereforthebath.com.
You can purchase “I’m Here for the Bath” from Balboa Press or your favorite online bookseller.
Peter Rolita RScP