END OF LIFE CARE AND LOVE
by Linda Gaalaas
“Hospice brings families together when it means the most.”
~ Allison Klein (Aurora Foundation Coordinator)
On October 7, 2017, Zilber Family Hospice held a 1 1/2 mile walk in Wauwatosa in memory of or to honor a family member or friend who has been a client in the hospice over the years. As a Saturday of Service for Lake Park Church, three Lake Park members: Melanie Helmke, Susan Glowinski and myself directed walkers along the route, heard their stories, and enthusiastically encouraged them – sometimes in the rain- for participating in the Zilber fundraiser. Aurora Zilber Family Hospice was named in honor of Joseph and Vera Zilber who provided the initial financial gift, establishing the original program in 1981. Funding continues to be provided by over 1500 individuals, corporations, and foundations. Those include family and friends of current and past patients, as well as fundraisers, such as this Walk.
Aurora Zilber Family Hospice is one of three hospice programs in the Milwaukee County area. The other hospice programs are Vitas Hospice and Horizon Home Health. Webster’s Dictionary defines hospice as “a program designed to provide palliative care and emotional support to the terminally ill in a home or home-like setting so that quality of life is maintained and family members may be active participants in care”. The goal of these hospice programs, as Webster indicates, is to assist those persons dealing with a terminal illness to die peacefully in a setting that offers compassionate and loving care for them as well as for the family.
I thought assisting with this walk would fit well into Lake Park Church’s Saturdays of Service, especially as both my Mother and my husband were in hospice programs near the end of their lives. My Mother was in hospice care at Luther Manor; my husband, George, was in hospice care for his final months at home and at St Mary’s – Ozaukee. In both situations, the caregivers demonstrated God’s love in their medical guidance and reassurance to Mom and George, and to me. That compassion and empathy gave me peace of mind that both of my significant family members could complete their life journey with decreased pain and anxiety. The caregivers included me in decision-making and supported my needs during those difficult months and I know God’s loving hand guided them. When the hospice nurse at St Mary’s pronounced George’s death she smiled, saying the Lord chose Easter Sunday to bring him to a glorious resurrection. I am forever grateful that hospice programs with their patient staff were available when my Mom and George needed them. I feel I now have a greater understanding of the skill and depth of feeling that hospice caregivers exhibit. They demonstrate God’s love every day.
I am proud that several Lake Park members were able to join me in devoting a Saturday of Service for this hospice program. I hope there are additional opportunities in the future to demonstrate how Lake Park members can be active in the community to help others struggling with health issues.