hand of an elderly person being held by a younger one

This week I introduce Nancy Ledoux, a chaplain for VNA Hospice Care in Woburn, MA.  Nancy brings over 12 years of experience providing support for people with disabilities choosing to die at home.

Hospice team addresses challenges

Nancy began the discussion by explaining some of the unique challenges faced.

“For a person with a disability, going home may be with their family but it also may be going to a group home. Either way, we are there for everyone. In the group homes we work with staff, housemates and the family when involved. We have a strong team including a primary nurse, social worker, home health aide and my role as chaplain.”

As we talked further, Nancy spoke of her collaborations with organizations that serve people with disabilities.

“Over the last 8 years, groups of area nurses from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) started meeting with us to streamline the regulations, making hospice care easier to offer in group homes. As a result, more vendors are choosing to offer end of life care.”

Dying at home is a life experience for everyone

Supporting a person who chooses to die at home has an impact on everyone involved. Nancy shared her personal thoughts.

For people with disabilities, “Dying can be so bewildering, but choosing to die at home is universal. Giving the choice is human and humane.”

For staff, “When young or from a different culture they may find it unconscionable to let a person die with comfort measures only. But the social worker and I encourage them to talk and really listen. It is very heartening to see the change that occurs”.

For family, “If a family member is in a group home, they may want to camp out there. Staff and roommates can feel elbowed out, but with support they learn to respect and support each other. ”

And for the housemates, “They get it. In fact, they get it better than a lot of us do. We encourage them to sit with their friend, which many choose to do. By being there through the whole process they also get to see they will not be abandoned when their time comes”.

Hospice program embraces the entire community

This conversation with Nancy gave me hope.

At a time when we worry about budget cuts effecting services for people with disabilities, Nancy reminds us there are programs in our communities committed to offering their services to people with disabilities.

And as a result, even through one of the most difficult times in a person’s life, everyone wins.