People often say it takes a special type of person to work in hospice care, and they are absolutely correct.
Accompanying a patient–literally hand in hand–on their end of life journey stirs the strongest of emotions and makes for one of the most precious human bonds imaginable.
While the entire team at LightBridge shares this sentiment, it is our hospice aides who develop indescribably powerful relationships with our patients. To capture their commitment, we spoke with two of our aides, Dorothy Swoger and Corey Strauss, about the connection they feel to patients.
The Hospice Heart
Coming from all walks of life, the LightBridge staff shares in common what we call the “hospice heart,” a heart filled with genuine compassion, empathy and support. Dorothy, who spent 10 years as a personal secretary before transitioning her career into private care and then hospice, certainly speaks from her hospice heart when describing why she feels so fulfilled as a hospice aide.
“Words cannot describe it,” Dorothy said. “To know you’re bringing love and care to the end of a patient’s life is beyond touching.”
Dorothy has been working with LightBridge since 2004. Core is a relatively new addition to the team, having joined in early 2018. Corey was a preschool teacher before entering the medical field and falling in love with hospice care. Her hospice heart comes from having cared for her grandparents and a friend’s mother.
“Once you take care of someone on that level, it changes you,” Corey said. “The way patients share memories, show family heirlooms and reminisce with such happiness reminds me every day that this is what I want to do with my career and life.”
The Kindest Care
Hospice is a much different environment than other forms of healthcare. Dorothy and Corey provide the emotional and spiritual aspect, helping patients do things they would not be able to do otherwise and improve the quality of the time they have left. Bathing a patient, brushing their hair, providing aromatherapy, giving them a hand massage and the many other ways hospice aides assist patients create emotional, everlasting attachments on both sides.
“Our aides are really the heart and soul of LightBridge,” said Pamela Hough, Senior Vice President of Operations/Administrator. “Everyone has their expertise and role, and everyone is equally important in our overarching mission, but the aides are the ones who are closest to the patients. The work they do is amazing and uplifting.”
More Than Tasks
Hospice aides like Dorothy and Corey typically start early in the morning–well before standard business hours–visiting patients in facilities and in their homes throughout the day. All the while, they are communicating with case managers, speaking with family members and so on. It’s a busy, fast-paced role, but that doesn’t keep them from giving each patient their undivided attention, each and every visit.
“A big part of it is taking the time to get to know them, letting them get to know us, and learning what brings them joy and comfort,” Dorothy said. “You don’t just care for patients, you carry them with you. You never forget them.”
Corey added, “All day, we’re in rooms where you can really–and I mean really–feel the love. You’re a part of it, and you just think to yourself, ‘What a privilege to be with this person and their family at this exact moment in time.’”
Working in hospice care is undeniably challenging. The emotions run high, the relationships take time, and the final moments are both heart-wrenching and heartwarming at once. Corey told a story of a patient who was initially combative toward everyone, including her. After getting to know Corey over the course of a month, the patient eventually opened up and began greeting her, “Hello, my angel.”
“If you visit for two hours and get one smile, it’s worth it,” Corey said. “The relationship starts with showing them you want to be there, and grows as they begin to realize you are truly going to be there through every step of their journey.”
We are so grateful for Dorothy, Corey and the many other special souls who comprise the LightBridge family.
In this month, when we set aside a week to celebrate all nursing assistants/aides across the country, we are especially thrilled to take this opportunity to honor Dorothy, Corey, and all of the amazing hospice aides in our LightBridge family. To learn more about our patient-centered approach to hospice, click here.