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Dying Alone | Melissa Vaughan
My mother used to volunteer to sit with people who were dying. These people were in their own homes, in hospice, or the hospital. Usually a nurse would call mom when the patient was in the final hours and she would come stay with them until they died. Most of the people were older, seniors who had no family around, or family just didn’t come. Some were AIDS patients that their families refused to come. Mom would stay as long as it took, sometimes 2-3 hours, sometimes a day, sometimes 2 days.
She would sit with them, talk, sing, hold their hand, I have seen her crawl in bed and hold someone and tell them she was there. I have seen people think she was their mother, sister, wife, and she let them think that. I have seen her talk, or just sit when they could not communicate, but she always made sure that they knew someone was there that cared about them, it wasn’t an act, she did care. For the time she was with them, she was their best friend, their family, anyone that made them feel comforted and not alone.
Mom had to stop volunteering do this a year or so ago. She asked me last night as I was putting her to bed if maybe we couldn’t start volunteering doing this again as a team. She never ceases to amaze me, she is 88 years old, has Alzheimer’s, has to be assisted when walking with a walker or pushed in a wheelchair, but she still wants to help volunteer—for those who, as she says, are “not as lucky” as she is—the forgotten ones that need her. I told her last night we would think about it. That seemed to calm her and make her happy. She is always thinking, worrying, planning on where to volunteer next.
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More from A Patient’s Perspective
Alzheimer’s in the First Person
Barbara Taylor Vaughan is 90 and in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Barbara and Melissa Vaughan are putting a face on the disease by chronicling Barbara's illness. Melissa, living with Multiple Sclerosis, is Barbara's daughter and caregiver.
They hope educating others will inspire them to volunteer to help ease the suffering of those with the disease, thier families and caregivers. Barbara and Melissa's relationship, compassion and humor are inspirational.
We love them and thank them for their humanity and generosity of spirit.
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