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On End-Of-Life Care: ‘When You Walk Into A Room – You Don't See A Patient. You See A Life.’

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Provided by Caring Hearts and Hands of Columbia
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Dorreen Rardin and Jackie Reed in Columbia are both long-time nurses who spent their careers working in palliative end-of-life care. After they retired, they joined together to co-found Caring Hearts and Hands of Columbia, a social model home for the dying – basically a community-supposed home for terminally ill people.

They spoke about what needs to be done to improve the end of folks’ lives and about what the community could do to help as they work toward creating a social model home in the community.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words.

Dorreen Rardin: One of the first issues I found with dying patients is discharged options, they only had two places mainly to go, and that was home or into a nursing home.

So, it really just showed me that this is not a problem that's going to go away, it's just going to get worse, especially with us, baby boomers getting older. And so, my big goal was, we have to solve the problem, we have to offer another solution.

Jackie Reed: I remember, you know, visiting with family members, and they had promised that they would never put mom or dad in a nursing home for end of life care, and realize, then they didn't have the resources to bring them home.

And you know, they were in tears and crying, and that would break my heart – knowing that there were really no other options. So, you know, our title, “Caring Hearts and Hands of Columbia,” was basically geared towards that – wanting to have the whole community come together to take on this problem.

And, you know, I think when people look back at the stressors in their life, the death of a loved one is really up there, and so, if we can do something to make that time a little bit easier – we certainly want to do that, you know, trying to help ease their physical, emotional and financial burdens, is our goal.

Dorreen Rardin: You know, I discussed this with all my patients: What do you see your life like at the end of life? What do you want? What do you want to smell? What do you want to see? What do you want to hear? What do you want to touch? And then you just bring those in.

It would be easier in this house, but even in the hospital – I brought a cow in for a patient to see. It was his pet cow.

Jackie Reed: In the courtyard. Not actually in the hospital.

Dorreen Rardin: Yeah, and we had a patient that was Indian. He loved riding horses, and his favorite smell was hay, and so, we actually brought in his horse blanket and put it out in the band, we run in a bale of hay.

So, you know, when you walk into a room – You don't see a patient. You see a life of a patient. You're not focusing on that patient dying. You're focused on, “Oh my god, tell me what this is all about,” so that you really know what his love and passion was like.

Pretty much anything people want you can do for them. It's just you don't have to ask.

Jackie Reed: People need to know – if they've went through death before they know how stressful it can be – and so, that's one of the things that we want to try to help alleviate.

Allowing a person, a family member or a mom or dad, brother, sister to be just that a family member instead of having to be the caretaker and the family member.

If you're having to stay up all night long with somebody maybe that is having a difficult time – having to change their bed several times – you lose that pet those precious moments of creating those memories.

When you're so emotionally wiped out, you miss out on the opportunity to have those kind of moments, and we want to give that back to the family those precious moments back to them and not have them be as worried about the physical needs of the patient.

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Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.