Hospice care therapeutic for more than just patients at end of life

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by JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on November 6, 2013 at 9:46 AM

DALLAS -- She doesn't speak anymore, but Paul Thompson believes he knows what his wife of 50 years would say, if she could.

"I think she'd tell me what I tell her:” he said, “that I love her. I think that's what she'd say."

Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s eight years ago, 71-year-old Elsie Thompson has been in a slow decline. She hasn’t really spoken for the last two years. In August, Paul made the tough decision to bring in hospice care at home.

For Elsie, hospice isn't about dying. It's about living, as best she can.

Twice a month, that includes music therapy.

"It can be anything,” said Valerie Sanchez, director of bereavement and integrated therapies at Faith Presbyterian Hospice, “And so the idea that now we're going to call 'hospice,' [has been that] we're going to stop everything. We're actually going to start a whole lot."

Sanchez said hospice isn't limited to end-of-life pain care anymore.

Clients can receive a variety of therapies, including massage and acupuncture. Their families can also benefit from counseling during and after their loved one’s life.

“They minister to me while they’re taking care of her,” Paul said. “I didn’t realize that first, but then I did after a while.”

Medicare pays for hospice, for those who qualify. And far from being service that lasts just the last few weeks of life, hospice can extend for many months, even over a year. The only stipulation is that life-extending treatments must cease.

“We’re not going to hasten, but we’re not going to prolong,” Sanchez said. "We're going to look at what can make your life more quality."

Elsie Thompson receives daily nursing care, which includes routine bathing. She also benefits from massage and music therapy at home.

Even though she doesn’t sing, Elsie can shake a tambourine, tap her foot, and smile to music.

"When she first got it, I prayed for God's grace and healing,” said Elsie’s son, Scott, of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. “Now, I pray for His mercy. That He'll take her. It's a hard prayer to pray for your mom."

For Elsie's family, hospice that brings her happiness and brings them comfort. Until God's mercy.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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