I love lists. They are how I get through so much work every day. I’ve got some down time? Let’s see what’s on my list that needs to be done.
As anyone who has had a baby knows, there are plenty of lists of things to bring to the hospital – lollipops, tennis balls for back pain, and even baby nail clippers. You need a lot at the beginning of life.
And then there’s the end of life.
I haven’t seen too many lists about what you need to bring if you go into a residential hospice. But, as it turns out, there are a few things that can actually help the patient out. This is a list of items my mother who was ambulatory (initially she could walk down a hall and back) and lucid (at the beginning) really appreciated during her stay at hospice.
- Neck pillow – often older people don’t have strong neck muscles or they fall asleep sitting up. A neck pillow kept mom’s head from flopping forward.
- Chapstick – my mother liked the traditional hard waxy Chapstick at first, but as she got weaker, I used a softer lip balm when I applied it to her lips.
- Something to hold Kleenex – my mother used a teddy bear that a friend has given her. People with congestive heart failure will cough, they will cough a lot. Kleenexes at arm’s reach at all times is a must.
- Bathrobe – if you are strong enough to get out of bed, a bathrobe will cover what your johnny doesn’t. Note – my mother didn’t use slippers because of swollen feet instead she used hospital socks.
- Stuffed animal – I don’t care how old you are – in the middle of the night when no one is around, a stuffed animal can bring comfort. I can’t tell you how many stuffed animals I bought for other patients.
- Phone and charger –a phone keeps you connected to others. Although my mother rarely used it, she was adamant about keeping it charged at all times.
- Small compact mirror and comb – just because you are in hospice doesn’t mean you don’t care how you look.
- A small soft bag to hold the phone, charger, more Kleenex, Chapstick and even candy – it keeps you more independent if you have the things you need by your side. My mother used a small quilted bag/purse and kept it by her side at all times.
- Daily newspaper – if she can read. My mother read USA Today until her final few weeks.
- Moisturizer with a nice smell – you are inside, it’s nice to be able to smell something that’s different.
- Hat, Sunglasses, and sunscreen – at the hospice we were at, we were allowed to take the patients outside on the deck that overlooked the sound. At first I only had sunglasses for my mother, but then my mom was concerned about skin cancer so I also got a hat and sunscreen. Even when you are dying you should always be concerned about skin cancer.
- Lightweight polar fleece blanket – some days were cooler than others and so I brought a light weight blanket to tuck around my mom when she went outside. Light weight was very important in my mother’s case because she had severe leg pain from cellulitis and couldn’t tolerate the weight of much more than a sheet on her legs.
- Decorations – there is nothing that says you can’t decorate around the patient’s bed. I found large paper flowers and birds at a local craft store and I hung them off the TV arm to create a floating garden for my mother. I also put decorations on the shelves and on the window. It brightened the day and even the nurses liked it.
- Flowers – flowers are gorgeous and they are a reminder that someone is thinking about you. Stay away from plants. Most plants are thrown away after a patient dies to control infections and if a patient switches rooms, the plants do not go with them. Send cut flowers instead.
- Cards, cards, cards, – every card that was sent to my mother was read over and over. If you don’t know what to do when someone enters hospice then know that a card really helps.
- Candy – you know what? If the patient wants candy she can have as much as she wants. In my mother’s case the candy that she most enjoyed was the candy of her youth. I brought her black licorice sticks, spearmint leaves, Canada Wintergreen mints, and spice gumdrops. I also brought bags of wrapped candy that she always offered the nurses. She’d tell them take one for each pocket. The nurses loved getting the candy as much as my mother loved giving it away.
If you have additional suggestions to add to this list please enter them in the comments below. Let’s create a list that helps hospice patients at the end of life as much as those that help new moms at the beginning.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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