News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Hospice House: An oasis of comfort and care

Katie Williams of Sisters lost her husband, Jim, to cancer almost three years ago, March 10, 2018 — seven days before their 11th wedding anniversary. Katie’s story of her experience of spending Jim’s last eight days with him at Partners In Care Hospice House is one of gratitude for the comfort, support, and physical care provided to both Jim and Katie by the staff.

“The way they cared for him was so gentle and sweet; talking to him, telling him what they were going to do before they did anything,” Katie said.

Jim’s arrival at Hospice House occurred immediately following a medical appointment when the palliative care team at St. Charles Hospital assessed his condition. His cancer had spread, and he was in excruciating pain. The call went to Partners In Care, and Jim was transported directly from the hospital to Hospice House, where began his and Katie’s eight days of transition.

Surrounded by all the comforts of home, including the companionship of their cockapoo, Odie, the Williams found themselves in an oasis of comfort and care, with round-the-clock pain management for Jim, support from the chaplain, social worker, and medical staff, and music provided by Partners In Care volunteers.

Jim and Katie were fortunate there was a bed available immediately in the current six-bed Hospice House. During 2020, there was a 99 percent waiting list for respite care and 30 percent for general inpatient care like Jim’s.

A planned new Hospice House will double the capacity to 12 private suites designed to provide home-like comfort with the addition of medical equipment, like supplemental oxygen, stored within the walls.

Katie was able to stay at Jim’s side for the entire eight days, with a couch in Jim’s room that made into a bed. Jim was only fully conscious for the first two days, but Katie spent all their evenings together reading and talking to Jim. Two days prior to dying, Jim regained enough consciousness to ask Katie if she was going to Starbucks, a long-standing tradition for them. Shocked by the question and Jim’s coherence, Katie drove down the street to Starbucks and brought back Jim’s favorite — an iced mocha and a muffin. By her return, he had slipped back into unconsciousness.

In reflecting on the entire year of “brutal chemo and radiation treatment” that Jim endured, Katie is thankful for their frank conversations about Jim’s disease and life for Katie when he was gone.

“At the celebration of life for Jim, I was able to tell people we had said everything there was to say to each other. We both made a concerted effort,” Katie explained.

Because of their preparations, Katie didn’t feel the need to participate in the bereavement support offered free-of-charge at Partners In Care for patients’ family members.

When Jim arrived at Hospice House, Katie experienced mixed feelings.

“You may find that surprising, but dealing with Jim’s cancer kept me so focused. Caring for him had become my whole purpose in life,” Katie explained. “For two years that was my role. I was scared because this really was the end. I was relieved because I could sleep through the night, and yet, I was right there in case he woke up in the night.”

Following two days of consciousness, the morphine was increased to manage the unbearable pain Jim was experiencing, and he became barely conscious. He couldn’t speak, but the nurses assured Katie he could hear her.

Jim had been admitted on a Friday. By Sunday the staff told Katie he probably wouldn’t be going home because they were having to manipulate his medication so much to keep him comfortable.

“Knowing he wouldn’t be coming home was the first step in accepting the end is coming. We could prepare ourselves,” said Katie.

Katie was thankful for not having to be alone at home with Jim and worrying about him dying if she administered his medication wrong.

“I was afraid I would accidentally kill him,” she admitted.

As it was, she and Odie were able to be present and care for Jim surrounded by knowledgeable, caring professionals who could explain what was happening.

“I loved that aspect of being at Hospice House. They were able to tell me where he was in the dying process, and explain what I was seeing,” Williams said.

On the day Jim died, the staff informed Katie in the morning that this was likely his last day. Katie contacted family and friends to let them know. Jim being an audiophile, Katie arranged for Bill Keale to come play his ukulele and sing for two hours. The nurses all came into Jim’s room to listen and be with Jim and Katie. Everyone enjoyed coffee and Sisters Bakery maple bars (Jim’s favorite).

Afterwards, Katie and a few friends took a lunch break down the street where Katie received a call that Jim was transitioning, and she should return to Hospice. When Jim drew his last breath, he was surrounded by those who cared for and loved him.

On the first anniversary of Jim’s death, Katie sent the staff an arrangement of flowers and a box of maple bars (from Sisters Bakery, of course) to recognize the huge part they had all played in Jim’s last days.

To make a donation to the Partners In Care Hospice House Capital Campaign, checks or pledges may be sent to Partners In Care, 2075 NE Wyatt Ct., Bend, OR 97701, indicating the donation is part of the Sisters Challenge. Donations may also be made online at indicating the Sisters Challenge. The CARES Act and SECURE Act offer incentives for charitable giving. For more information, contact Marlene Carlson at 541-382-5882.


Reader Comments(0)

Rendered 06/18/2024 20:10