Growing up in Southern Colorado, every summer my grandparents would pick up me and my siblings for a trip to their cabin in Creede.
My grandfather is a World War II veteran whose birthday just happens to fall on July 6, so we’d celebrate the country he loves and his birthday all in the same week.
This year, my grandfather turned 97 years old. He says his years at the cabin are over, although he’d like to make one more trip and catch one more trout.
Recently while at work, I received a text message from a neighbor, saying my grandfather had been taken to the emergency room in an ambulance. He had felt dizzy for many days, but that day was worse than ever and as my aunt went over to visit, she decided to call 911. After a day full of tests and no new diagnosis, my grandfather was sent home with a follow-up appointment with his cardiologist.
If you knew my grandfather, you’d know that his one goal for the last years of life is to stay at home. That’s probably why he chose his oldest granddaughter, who works in hospice, to be his medical durable power of attorney. As grandpa’s MDPOA, my goals are the same as his – to keep him in the home he loves as long as it is safe for him to be there.
While my grandfather, even at 97, is not sick enough to qualify for hospice care, he benefits from our palliative care team, which visits him at home. Being a disabled veteran, my grandfather qualifies for Veterans Administration benefits that include payment for palliative care services. Each week, his nurse visits him and checks his vitals, fills his medication planner and answers any health questions he has.
The palliative care program has truly helped keep my grandfather independent. At some point, my grandfather will be within the last six months of his life and he can be enrolled in hospice care. At that time, he will have an even larger team of clinicians coming into his home and meeting his needs.
I am hoping that my grandfather gets his wish and gets to pass away in the home he loves surrounded by his large family who loves him. If he has to be moved to a facility, I am comfortable knowing the same great hospice care he receives at home can follow him to the facility.
Knowing what I do about the end of life, I am very aware that my grandfather is close to needing hospice services. I am familiar with the exceptional level of care he will receive and how much easier things will be for my 95-year-old grandmother, who is his primary caregiver. More than that, I know he will be treated with the dignity at the end of his life which is so important to him.
After seeing firsthand how crucial hospice and palliative care services can be for a person, I encourage everyone to become more familiar with the hospice Medicare benefit. Hospice care is available to anyone who has Medicare part A with zero deductibles or out of pocket expenses, meaning it can benefit everybody, regardless of the ability to pay.
While a trip to the cabin did not happen this July, grandpa’s birthday was celebrated on my parents’ back porch with our whole family along to take part in the celebration. As I watched my grandfather celebrate the milestone of his 97th birthday, I saw a boy heading off to war and coming back disabled. I saw a Southeastern Colorado farmer who worked so hard his entire life. I saw a grandpa who taught his grandchildren to fish and so much more.
I also saw an elderly veteran whose options, health, and control are slipping away from him. While there is uncertainty in the end, I am so thankful for the care he is guaranteed through the hospice Medicare benefit.
I will always want the best end-of-life care for my grandpa, and you should settle for nothing less for yours.
Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Tarrah Lowry.
Tarrah is the President and CEO of Sangre de Cristo Hospice & Palliative Care and may be reached at 719-542-0032 or by email at Tarrah.firstname.lastname@example.org