What the Walk for Hospice Means to Hospice Nurses
More than 2,000 people from across the South Shore gather for the Walk for Hospice. Now in its 28th year, the Walk for Hospice raises funds to support the more than 600 hospice patients and their families served by Hospice of the South Shore.
As participants start fundraising for this important event, we wanted to share the stories of the talented and compassionate caregivers that deliver hospice care. We recently sat down with hospice nurses Teddy Decosta, RN, and Michelle Bache, RN, to learn more about how the Walk for Hospice supports what they do every day for patients on the South Shore.
What attracted you to hospice care?
Teddy: When I first started out as a nurse, I worked in rehabilitation at a skilled nursing facility. When we did have hospice patients on the floor, I felt like I couldn’t give them my time. Hospice care allows me to sit with the patient and the family and I feel like I make a difference.
This is always something that I’ve been interested in. My dad died suddenly when I was seven. There are a lot of things that now, as an adult, I wish I could have said or moments we could have had. This is nice to help families get that closure.
Michelle: When you become a hospice nurse, you’re definitely answering a calling. It’s not something that you can just jump into if you’re not dedicated. Like Teddy, my Mom was at home on hospice before I became a nurse. Her hospice nurse was amazing. She came in, she kept my Mom comfortable. I was only 19 and my brother and sister were 16, so I was the one taking care of her. It really inspired me. I wanted to be able to take care of people like she took care of my mother.
When I take care of my patients, I treat each one like they’re my family, because that’s what they deserve. They deserve the individual time for each of us to sit down. For that half-hour, 45 minutes, hour, I have nobody else to take care of but them. And that’s important.
What does the Walk for Hospice mean for you?
Michelle: We go to the Walk for Hospice every year. It raises money for patients that might not be able to afford things. We can get things for patients. Recently, we got a portable oxygen container for one of Teddy’s patients to help improve her quality of life.
Teddy: Her one wish was to go on a cruise, and they don’t allow you to take oxygen tanks on the ship because they’re combustible. You need to have a mini concentrator, and they’re not covered and many places don’t sell them. We ended up using money raised by the Walk to buy her one.
The Walk for Hospice allows us to give back to patients that need it. If patients don’t have insurance, we’ll provide free care to them. It is important to have a peaceful death at home, if that’s what patients want. We want to do everything we can to make that happen.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Michelle: Each day, we see between four and six patients. We set up visits and call our patients in the morning to let them know what time we’ll be out. Sometimes, you get held up with a patient that needs something you weren’t expecting or something changed dramatically from the last time you were there. You have to stay calm and handle the situation as a professional.
Teddy: You never know what’s going to happen. You may get stuck in traffic.
Michelle: But it’s all part of the job. We like it.
Teddy: It’s definitely not boring!
What would you tell someone who wants to become a hospice nurse?
Michelle: This is a heavy job, emotionally. It’s very difficult sometimes. The reality is that our patients are going to die. You get attached to them and you take care of them with everything you have, and then they die. But then you get another patient who needs you and you take care of that patient.
Teddy: There are always difficult cases or people you become more attached to and losing them can be really difficult. But we always call the patient’s family after they pass.
Michelle: The other thing I’d say is that it’s truly a blessing to be invited in to someone’s home. It’s a sacred time in someone’s life and you’re a guest in their house. It’s important to recognize that and know that you have to work as a team and the patient is in charge of their own journey, and you’re there to help them along the way.