MVH We Honor Veterans Program

MVH We Honor Veterans Program

Americans across the country celebrate Veterans Day on November 11, a special day to salute the men and women who have bravely served our country in the military.

These fellow Americans have made profound sacrifices in defense of freedom and they deserve our heartfelt thanks and appreciation. Honoring our nation’s veterans includes supporting them throughout their entire lives, especially at the end.

"Hospice Includes Family in End-of-Life Care"

Matlin Smith at the Las Cruces Sun-News wrote a beautiful article about Ann Paynowski, a Mesilla Valley Hospice patient. Ann is a wonderful person to talk with; the first thing we talked about was hummingbirds, the second was her family. Her story provides a great lens through which families can look at hospice to see how it can help them.

When is it time?

Dr. Craig Bowron, writing for the Washington Post, discussed modern views of death and medical care in an excellent opinion piece, which you can read by clicking here.

We love our families; we want the best for them, and we want to do everything we can for them. Often, we cart our elderly loved ones from physician to physician, for "more tests, more medications, more procedures"; we do anything to give them - and us - a little more time. But sometimes, the best possible thing we can do is realize it is time to let go. This isn't easy; if anything, changes in our society have made this more difficult.

Choosing to accept that a loved one is nearing the end of their life is not choosing to lose hope. This choice (and choosing hospice care) actually allows you to make sure they receive the best care for their situation - care that focuses on physical and emotional comfort.

"The End of Treatment is not the End of Hope"

Hope often comes from someone helping us. You can probably recall a time you felt hopeless; likely, you regained optimism because someone gave you a helping hand. We at Mesilla Valley Hospice are here to do just that: lend a hand, support a caregiver, and give the family hope! 

Many times, we hear people say that when hospice is called, it is the end of all hope. But as Dr. Lani Leary says in her article:

Embracing hospice, and what it can offer, does not mean we let go of hope.  Hospice is a way of living that focuses on changing the experience of living with a terminal illness.

She goes on to say:

Our resolve to hope for instead of fighting against may be just the change in perspective that provides the comfort, peace, and presence that will matter.

It is an excellent article, so I hope you'll take a few minutes to read and ponder over it. Dr. Leary is very good at discussing why we need hope, how we can reframe hope, and how important it is to really live!

You can read Dr. Leary's article by clicking here.

Plan the Journey Ahead

Remember that last minute, unplanned trip? How did it compare to a trip you were able to plan in advance? The latter probably went much more smoothly and was more enjoyable. The same is true about life planning.

There are important questions like, Do you want your life to be prolonged by machines? How long do you want to continue medical treatment? Would you want to continue medical treatment even if it became a burden to your family?

Many people find this conversation a difficult one to start. The first step is to make sure you have your own advance directive in order.  Unexpected health situations can happen to anyone, at any age.  So even if you feel invincible now, you never know what tomorrow might bring. You can download the Five Wishes form (in English or Spanish) or contact us at 575-523-4700 for more information.

Once you fill it out, make sure your health care provider has a copy, and most importantly, talk about your wishes with family members. Also, share your wishes with your friends and ask them "what if ...". If you're still unsure how to bring this subject up, GoWish.org has an "easy, even entertaining way to talk about what is most important to you."

Our Philosophy Regarding Aid in Dying

If you read the recent article in the Las Cruces Sun-News, “Judge says doctors can assist in death,” it may have raised some questions in your mind as to where Mesilla Valley Hospice stands on the issue of assisting in death, also known as aid in dying.

Our mission since the inception of hospice is to provide quality, holistic care that supports the patients, families, and those left behind through the bereavement process.  At Mesilla Valley Hospice we recognize that dying is a part of the normal process of living and our intention is neither to hasten nor postpone death.  Through appropriate care and the promotion of a caring community, patients and families may be free to attain a degree of mental, emotional, and spiritual preparation for death that is satisfactory to them.  The Mesilla Valley Hospice team creates an environment where patients are comfortable to express their thoughts, feelings, conflicts, and despair.  As we respect the conversation regarding the feeling of hopelessness, our method of providing care has proven to diminish these feelings and decrease the likelihood that an individual will choose this path.

High quality end-of-life care continues to be paramount at Mesilla Valley Hospice as we enter into our thirty-second year. There is still much work to be done to educate and inform the public of the need to receive patients earlier, which is crucial in our discussions today.  We must increase the time that individuals have to live life to the fullest and focus on living with dignity.  This allows individuals time to determine their path and we will be there to support them along the way. 

Mesilla Valley Hospice is always available to speak at any venue to educate and promote hospice care.  Our goal is to eliminate the barriers, promote quality hospice care, and provide an invaluable service to our community for years to come.  Mesilla Valley Hospice will continue to use the methods we currently use to assist individuals with end-of-life issues as these methods have proven to work time and time again.

Jean Briley, Executive Director

Edu Benitez: A Boy Who Can Only Smile

When we decided to begin sharing stories with you, I was given the task of picking the first one. There are many touching stories, but I want it to be about a family. So when I came across the Benitez family's story, the decision was made.

Edu began life relatively healthy, but at 6 months old he was diagnosed with generalized non-convulsive epilepsy. His mother, Lizbet, was determined to give him the best life possible. For eight years, she ferried Edu between physical therapy, doctor visits, school, and games. They had a very close, very special relationship.

Edu2.JPG

Then Edu started to decline. His seizures worsened, and they were spending more time in the hospital than at home. Lizbet said, "He wasn't able to enjoy life. He couldn't go outside, He needed help to breathe and eat. He wasn't playing. He looked like he no longer cared for life."

When doctors suggested hospice, Lizbet resisted the idea. "I didn't want to even think about it," she says. "I thought hospice meant I wanted him to die. I thought people would think Edu was a burden and that I no longer wanted to keep him alive." So she vowed to take him home and care for him. But, "I wasn't sleeping. I wasn't spending time with my daughter. I just really crashed. I was so, so, so tired. None of use were really living our lives, especially Edu."

In October 2006, Lizbet decided to admit Edu to La Posada, our hospice house. About that experience, she said, "I didn't realize how tired I was until we came here. I started to feel peace. This is a sanctuary and a place to rest and be with my son." Edu seemed to agree: his first day here, he played hide and seek with a blanket and giggled. "He hadn't done that in years," his mother said. "It was like he was giving me a gift."

Providing a place of peace and comfort to anyone in need is our mission. We are honored to have been a part of the Benitez's journey. We would be honored to be a part of your journey, too.

This post was adapted from the cover story of the 2007 volume of The Storyteller, published by Mesilla Valley Hospice.