Becoming a hospice caregiver is never an easy choice. Understandably focused on the comfort of her husband during his extended illness, Eva Riddick did not recognize her own struggle. She candidly shares how the Renown Hospice and Palliative Medicine care team brought comfort to both her and her husband, during his last days.
Before her adored husband’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, Eva Riddick fondly recalls their happy life. “One of our granddaughters would tell us: ‘Grandma, you and granddaddy are a fairy tale’ and I believe we were.”
Singing to him every day of their 43 years together is a treasured memory. She tearfully recalls the last song she sang to him, just an inch from his face. “Have I told you lately that I love you?” Describing his final moments she lovingly reveals, “He took four, very soft, regular breaths and kind of smiled and passed away.”
Facing the Unknown as a Hospice Caregiver
Of course Eva did not know what to expect navigating through this difficult time with her husband. “I lost a lot of sleep because I slept with one eye open I was very hyper vigilant with Gene. I hardly ever left his side. To me there were two things of which I knew practically nothing Parkinson’s and Hospice.”
With little knowledge of the duties of a hospice caregiver, she relied on her husband’s care team. “I felt Gene was in such good hands. He was safe.”
Tell Me Your Life Story
Although hospice involves spiritual care, she didn’t realize the role of chaplain on a care team existed. However, she quickly came to value the insightful comfort from Renown Hospice Chaplain, Bert Snyder. “There was just something about Bert that puts you at ease,” she says. “He didn’t really ask a lot of questions. He more or less listened.”
Bert put Gene at ease and became a friend, allowing him to open up and share many personal stories of his life. “And I sat and listened and realized that Bert was encouraging my husband to talk and that in itself was huge.” Describing their connection through stories, she says, “They built their own relationship. From then on, it grew.”
Trusted Team Care
Another level of comfort was certainly the continuity of team members caring for her husband. “And Gene would tell me, ‘I am so glad that I see the same people and I like them all so much. Oh, Jamie’s coming today.’”
She describes the compassionate care her husband received by his nurse. “She took the extra step and combed Gene’s hair, put deodorant on him and put lotion on his arms, legs and feet. Maybe that’s what the nurse is expected to do, I don’t know, but she did. She took extremely good care.”
In addition, she admits to her own emotional struggle as a hospice caregiver. “I don’t know if I would’ve made it so long, because there were times that I hurt so bad with Gene. I was breaking,” she recalls. “And without Hospice I would have broken.”
“I just hope and pray, that people can understand the scope of hospice. A sense of recovery for the family. For the ones that are losing their loved one,” she emphasizes. “I am forever grateful because hospice saved my life. My life. And I wasn’t the ill one.”
Renown Hospice and Palliative Care provides compassionate expertise and support to meet the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of patients and families.