Shepherd’s Cove Hospice aids Wendy Cooper, left, and Brenda Pitts use their heart, experience, and expertise to walk with families through the end-of-life journey.

When you spend all your physical energy on daily living tasks, like bathing, you have little left to truly enjoy time with loved ones, hobbies, and special moments of life.

People facing the realities of a life-limiting illness often face this dilemma. But they don’t have to miss those special moments. With a little help, patients and their caregivers can focus on the parts of life that matter most, like conversations with friends, enjoying grandchildren, or painting another masterpiece.

“We prop people up and tell them they can do this,” said Brenda Pitts, home care aid for Shepherd’s Cove Hospice. “We tell them that we can accomplish anything together, even dying.”

Shepherd’s Cove Hospice offers aid services to every patient to help with daily living tasks. Our home care aids help bathe and groom patients, assist with light housekeeping, and other tasks to help patients and families live as comfortably as possible. With special hearts and hands of service, home care aids are key to providing a higher quality of life for patients and caregivers alike.

Support for the patient

Many times, aids find themselves in a position to provide spiritual support or emotional companionship just by the nature of their work. Losing the ability to independently go to the bathroom or take a bath is often one of the hardest issues people face at the end of life. Patients are often reluctant to let “strangers” into such intimate moments of their day. But Brenda and Wendy Cooper, another Shepherd’s Cove aid, say their goal is to become more like family.

Shepherd’s Cove does not limit the amount of time aids can spend at each home, so these caring souls can take time to get to know patients, listen to them, and help them with more than just physical needs. Patients sometimes even find it easier to share secrets, fears, or life stories with the aids than with their own family.

“We’re here for more than just a bath,” Brenda said. “When we come in, we take time to talk. We’re going to sit down and make them feel like they’re our only patient.

“What can I give a dying person but my time. (The patients) understand time. They deserve my time.”

Sometimes in the chaos of illness and caregiving, families can’t understand what their dying loved one really wants or needs. Because of their experience, Brenda, Wendy, and other aids can sometimes more easily discern these desires and advocate for the patient’s wishes. For instance, if a patient is just too weary for a bath one day, our aids can express that to the family and explain that it’s OK if they don’t have a bath.

“We tell them this is your life and your journey,” Brenda said.

Sometimes the aids can bring unexpected comforts to patients, like simply putting their feet or hands in water when the patient hasn’t been able to do so in months. Or cleaning between the patient’s toes when the patient doesn’t want to ask their caregiver.

But with every task, Shepherd’s Cove aids understand the importance of respecting all patients during such trying times. They take special measures to maintain the patient’s privacy and dignity, like keeping them covered as much as possible.

“We remember we’re treating a person, not a disease,” Wendy said. “This is more than just a job. We become their friend. We’re companions.”

Help for the caregiver

Home care aids are as important to the caregivers as the patients. The end-of-life journey is full of unknowns. Many families are anxious about caring for their loved one and fear they won’t provide the best care possible. Aids encourage nervous caregivers and set them up for success. They teach caregivers practical ways to care for their loved one each day, such as how to give a sponge bath in the bed, how to lift and turn a patient, and how to change bed linens while the patient is still in the bed. Shepherd’s Cove also provides all the tools necessary for success, like gloves, bed pads, adult diapers, and more.

“A lot of times, the families see something as impossible, but we show them it is possible,” Wendy said.

and when things do not go as planned, aids offer caregivers and patients alike a fresh breath of grace and help ease their fears.

“Everything doesn’t have to be perfect,” Brenda said.

Aids help families walk the bumpy end-of-life road with courage and confidence, offering advice and assistance to make the ride smoother and more beautiful – the heart of hospice care.

“We’re just here to guide and lead them on this journey,” Brenda said. “Hospice is not giving up. It is living.”

By Malarie Allen, Public Relations Specialist