My mother was a wonderful woman. It would be impossible to describe her 99 years of life, but they were full of life, love, and adventure. Thankfully, her last days were peaceful, surrounded by her children and those who couldn’t be there were on Facetime. The whole family was supported by very capable palliative caregivers.
She had endured pain or discomfort in varying degrees for some time, but recently she hit a crisis. What was later diagnosed as a kidney infection caused intolerable pain and she called for help. She agreed to be taken by ambulance to a downtown Toronto hospital where the emergency doctors and nurses were caring and professional, but they had little good news. Surgery was not a viable option, and when consulted, Mum had had enough. That night, in the midst of the ongoing COVID crisis, my brother and sister were allowed to be with her, and I kept in touch using Facetime. The hospital environment was horrible. There was no comfort. There was very little space. There was so much noise that I could hardly hear the Facetime conversation. This was not the place any of us wanted to see our mother die.
All 20 of the residential hospice beds in Toronto were full, so residential hospice was not an option.
In the morning we arranged for an ambulance to bring her home, even though we were warned that the trip would be hard, and she might not make it. After less than 24 hours, she was home. Home to safety. Home to comfort. Home to where she could be with her whole family. Care was provided by with both palliative care nurses and doctors. She was in a peaceful place with all the kids around her. We stayed with her until she passed away on Sunday morning. It was comfortable for our mother, and it was therapeutic This was the peaceful passing that any family would want. But what about other families? With hospice beds full, the family has to have the resources to have private care. Home hospice care must be expanded to become more available for more people. Government dollars could be redirected from funding expensive, totally unsatisfactory hospital care at the end of life, to home hospice. We would actually save health care dollars while immensely improving care for the dying and their families.