How Social Services Specialists Impact End of Life Care
Edward Watson is 97-years-old. If you asked him how he’s doing, he’d tell you he’s not going to be here much longer.
“My mind is going, as well as my body,” Edward said. “I can’t remember things too well”
He’s suffered four or five strokes by his count. He is a widower, twice. But for a man who believes is in his final days, his spirits remain incredibly high. He credits that to the time in history when he was born.
“The depression formulated my life forever,” he said. “It enabled me to be able to get through some quite hard periods of time.”
As a social services specialist at LifePath Hospice, Thanh Bermingham still felt Edward had plenty of life left to live.
“He was feeling pretty down about himself,” Thanh said. “I tried to talk to him and remind him of things in his life that made him happy.
What Made You Happy Then Can Make You Happy Now
As it turns out, Edward had a special hobby that he picked up when he was 12-years-old.
His brother, Gilbert, brought home a harmonica. It was missing a reed, which is a pretty important piece to control the notes and make sure everything sounds right.
It didn’t matter. Edward and Gilbert both figured out how to play it anyway.
Playing the harmonica didn’t become a permanent fixture in Edward’s younger days. For a few years, he spent some time as an aircraft technician in the Air Force before operating two cemeteries and a monument business in Georgia. He never managed to play in any bands during that time, and his harmonica playing days seemed numbered.
When Edward’s second wife died 11 years ago, the harmonica found its way back into his life. He admitted he spent lots of time at home feeling down and not getting out much, but then he got an idea.
“One of the days I was in here and thought, ‘I wonder if I could play harmonica?’” he said. “I took it out and it was like I never stopped. I had all the acumen to keep on playing. That made me feel pretty good.”
Edward was playing so much he was even in three bands at one point, but that didn’t last. He suffered a series of strokes and soon after his harmonicas started to collect dust again.
More Life Left to Live
One day Edward and Thanh got to talking. She could tell he needed something to lift his spirits. The idea of playing harmonica came up.
Not knowing if he would be well enough to play, he gave it a try anyway and played for Thanh.
“I cried it was so beautiful.”
It was then that Edward knew what he needed to do to start feeling better, but he was worried he might lose his hospice benefits if he felt well enough to play again. Thanh assured him otherwise.
“I wanted to play one more time before I hang up my hat. It’ll be my farewell song,” he said. “I played because of Thanh.”
Edward had reconnected with one of his bands, The Front Porch Pickers. He played not one, but two more concerts with them before officially calling it a career.
His song of choice? “I Miss Somone” by his favorite singer, Johnny Cash.
“He has a limited (vocal) range,” Edward said. “He couldn’t get up to the high notes and neither could I.”
Edward addressed the crowd at his final concert on December 18 and officially announced his retirement. He received a standing ovation from the crowd and his bandmates.
At a time when he felt he didn’t have much time left, his social services specialist was there to help show him he still had plenty of life left to live.
At Chapters Health System and its affiliates—Good Shepherd Hospice, Hospice of Okeechobee, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to [email protected].
About Pat Carragher
Pat Carragher, Media Relations Coordinator at Chapters Health System, is responsible for external communications for the not-for-profit organization.
How Social Services Specialists Make a Difference
At Good Shepherd Hospice, Hospice of Okeechobee, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, social services specialists share work with other clinicians and volunteers to provide care to patients and families including psychosocial support, advanced directive information, development of plans of care, and other social services depending on the patient/family needs.
They also empower patients and families to negotiate with resource providers and make decisions on their own behalf.
Specialists also help other clinical staff in understanding family dynamics and developing a plan to address issues in a nonjudgmental manner.
Social services specialists’ work doesn’t end when a patient passes on. They help coordinate bereavement needs and give family members the resources they need on their grief journeys.