Cary, N.C. — When Wes Golden's doctor first mentioned hospice, the 58-year-old was skeptical. Aggressive lung and prostate cancer were taking a toll on his body, but Golden didn’t want to acknowledge “the end,” he said.
“Now, I understand it’s not the end. They encourage and work with you to help you live longer,” he said.
Choosing hospice care can be a difficult decision and is often misunderstood, according to people in the profession. Nurses, clergy and other staff members help the ill and their families with medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support.
An estimated 1.58 million terminally ill people received hospice care in 2010, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Golden and his wife of nearly 30 years, Sheila Golden, allowed WRAL News into their home last November and December to document their story and the stories of the caretakers who helped them ease into “the end.”
“I’m grateful for every day. I thank God that I wake up and he’s here with me,” Sheila Golden said.
WRAL News visited with the Goldens in early December and watched as nurse Debra Mareya and Chaplain Letaz Jones came to the home. Both work for Community Home Care & Hospice and say their work is a calling.
“Here, I go even deeper into a person’s life, and it’s more than just a religious experience,” Jones said.
Besides managing their patients’ pain, blood pressure and sleep, they work with the family on an emotional level.
“To do this job, it has to be a calling, because they become part of your family. They become part of who you are,” Mareya said.
The staff comes as needed, and sometimes the need comes without warning.
“One day, Wesley was having a really bad day breathing, and it really scared me,” Sheila Golden said. “I called. All four came and helped us through it.”
Knowing the end was near, Sheila Golden moved her husband into a hospice home in December. Ten days later, she got the call.
“I ran over, and luckily I was able to hold his hands,” she said. “(Hospice nurses and staff) were with me during the hardest time of my life – losing him – and they stayed with me. They gave me great support afterwards.”
Sheila Golden says she is proud of her husband and the life they shared together.
“He meant a lot to me,” she said. “He always will. I feel blessed to have had the years I had with him.”