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Hospice volunteers, paparazzi, and taking a break

By Barbara L’Amoreaux

Last Friday I stepped into a different world when I entered the home of Judy and Les Kincade. Les is a Holy Redeemer Hospice patient, and Judy is his wife, caregiver, cheerleader, and mascot.

I am not a clinician, and I have never had a personal experience with hospice. I am merely lucky enough to work with some of the most amazing folks I’ve ever met—hospice professionals. My role was to accompany a reporter to the home of Les and Judy for an interview with Les’ hospice volunteer, Marcy Oleksiuk.

After a 30-year nursing career that included stints in pediatrics and psych nursing, Marcy was able to pursue her long-time dream of volunteering. She chose hospice as a way to connect with her patients without the clinical demands of nursing. Volunteering allows her to focus on the emotional wellbeing of her patients and their families.

We—the reporter, a newspaper photographer, Holy Redeemer Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Jean Francis, and me—trekked through windy streets to the tidy home of the Kincades. By now I knew that this was not going to be a gloomy, sad place, because Marcy had told us of Les’ love of TJ Hooker reruns, country music videos, and Phillies’ games, all of which she watches with him, having a running conversation with Les despite his inability to speak. Les greeted us with a smile that was reminiscent of those in the photos that surrounded him—a goofy, fun man full of love for his family.

Our entourage was more like a party—with laughter, stories, and jokes—and I think this was because of Judy and Les’ outlook on life. Judy offered refreshments, and Judy and Les’ daughters talked to Pops, laughed some more, and gave hugs. A while later three teenage grandchildren stopped by to check in with their mom and grandparents. The photographer didn’t want to leave. In fact, he probably took more photos than ever. It was just that kind of atmosphere. You almost wouldn’t think that the host of this party was receiving end-of-life care.

But that’s the thing. This family was focusing on the “life” part of the situation, not the “end”.

I know that not everyone has a support system like this family, and not every couple is able to look back on 34 years of joy as the Kincades do. But their happiness at having a few more months together—even with a hospital bed in the living room—was contagious. My wish for you who are doing the hard, hard work of caregiving for someone in hospice is that you, too, are able to focus on life, with all of its joys, despite the sorrows. Hospice volunteers can give you a bit of respite from responsibility. Judy didn’t think she needed more help, what with her kids and hospice staff on board, but taking a bit of time to get a haircut or run to the store has helped her to feel better, too. And Les seems to look forward to Thursday afternoons with Marcy.

Barbara L’Amoreaux is the director of public relations for Holy Redeemer Health System. She would like to thank the Kincades for allowing her to bring the paparazzi, and for sharing their story so generously.

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