Hospice Austin’s Blog
Over the past six years, Hospice Austin RN Shelly Robichaux has cared for close to 100 patients at Avalon Memory Care, an assisted living community in Cedar Park. Shelly is part of Hospice Austin’s Partners Team, who cares exclusively for patients in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities.
Once upon a time, there was a small oak sapling living in a beautiful oak grove near the Blanco River that runs through John Knox Ranch. The sapling was young and tender and soaked up all the warm sunshine, refreshing rain, and good soil until gradually it grew into a sturdy young tree, hearty and strong.
One night, however, a terrible storm swept through the ranch. There was lashing rain, booming thunder and streaks of lightening that lit up the sky.
A patient recently observed that Hospice Austin physicians are like the doctors in times gone by. Anne* has been on our service for almost a year. During that time, she has been in various settings: home, long-term care facility, and Hospice Austin’s Christopher House.
“I didn’t think they did things like this anymore – it’s like the old doctors that used to make house calls,” Anne said. “You form relationships. It means a lot to me, that there’s someone in this world that cares.”
Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance companies cover hospice care. And, as a nonprofit organization, Hospice Austin provides care to all who need us, regardless of a patient’s disease or ability to pay.
It’s 2 a.m. and my pager goes off. I call into the hospital and the nurse who paged me states that an elderly patient is on a ventilator. The patient’s physicians have been gently recommending for a while that the family consider removing artificial life- sustaining treatment as the patient is incurable and has no neurological activity. The patient never completed any advance directives so the medical team does not have any clear guidance on what the patient would want. Now the patient is unresponsive and unable to communicate, and the family is in heated conflict about what to do.
I have been thinking about hope lately. What it is. Where it comes from. How to access it when so much seems shrouded in chaos, uncertainty, and fear. I have decided that, for me at least, hope is not so much a positive outlook or even a belief that everything will turn out just fine. For me, real hope is a way of being in the world. An embodiment of raw courage, outrageous imagination, and deep love in the face of overwhelming odds. I can think of no other profession that is more hope-filled than yours. Social workers are the ones who step into that breach between what is and what is possible. You are the ones who reach across that vast chasm to make a way when it seems there is no way.
One of the best things about our job is the privilege of witnessing so many love stories. Hospice Austin Chaplain Katrina Shawgo says she and her team were particularly impressed by Sue and Richard Strahm.
“She has dementia but her husband is so sweet with her,” Katrina said. “He still flirts with her, saying things like ‘Get up and run around the house and I’ll chase you. Now if only I can remember what to do with you when I catch you!’ She’s minimally verbal and rarely smiles for other people, but always smiles for him. He still makes her laugh.”
I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for the very generous support you have provided to Hospice Austin this past year. In 2021, we provided more than 100,000 visits to 2,300 patients.
When doctors told Anitra Gilley that she had Stage III cervical cancer, everything in her mind went blank. She was the single mother of four children; she couldn’t have cancer. Her mind started whirling and then, like a Wheel of Fortune spinner, stopped on her grocery store list.
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care month and we wanted to take this opportunity to educate the public about the some common misperceptions about hospice care.
Whether you’re a person with a serious illness or a family member, just saying the word “hospice” can trigger many fears. These misperceptions are common among family members and patients who are trying to decide what to do next and where to turn.