An Interview with Gulf Coast Executive Director David Slaughter
“We want our patients to have the best quality of life no matter what the quantity is,” said David Slaughter, Executive Director of Heart to Heart Hospice in the Texas Gulf Coast branch. He shared his heart for the hospice industry and his own personal experience during a podcast interview with host Robby Lynn on Sunday’s Kind of Country.
When patients have a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less, and all curative treatments are exhausted or discontinued, many times families are at a loss where to turn next. Hospice care is often a hush-hush topic, and sharing its benefits on platforms such as the podcast helps educate families who may feel hesitant to reach out.
David has worked in hospice care for two decades, noting that it can be a blessing for families facing the death of a loved one. After they receive news from doctors that “there’s nothing more that we can do,” those who call on hospice discover a host of services that provide guidance, comfort, and care.
During his training for a career in hospice care, David relayed one of his first encounters with a woman who was at peace and ready to go. After he explained what hospice entails, she told him, “You’ve comforted me because you’re going to give me dignity at the end of my life.”
Individual Care for Body, Soul, & Mind
Heart to Heart Hospice doesn’t only provide pain relief for patients, but a host of services that address body, spirit, relationships, and mental health.
“We are not ‘morphine moderators,’ but provide a whole scope of health care,” said David. Nurses, doctors, CNAs, chaplains, social workers and a variety of therapists, hospice employees, and volunteers carry out an individualistic care plan for each patient. Chaplains and social workers help patients with their unique spiritual journeys, as well as provide relational guidance and mental health support. And after death, bereavement coordinators help the families with end-of-life details and grief counseling.
Pain management and easing physical suffering is just part of the job, as is addressing fears, final wishes, spiritual needs, and education. One of the biggest parts of hospice care is training the full-time caregivers in the home. Families are guided during this uncertain time by professionals who recognize when a plan needs changed, when hospice team specialists need to be called in, and when the end of life is near.
“Thirty percent of what we do is for the patient, and 70 percent is working with and serving the families, preparing them and guiding them,” David said on the podcast. Hospice helps families with details like paperwork or securing a hospital bed and other medical equipment in the home.
Even with all of his professional experience, David relayed how his own family needed hospice services when his dad was dying of cancer: “There’s so much to coordinate, you’re lost when it’s you [and your family]. If you were a nurse, but are now a primary caregiver [for a loved one]…you need to be the daughter or son, not the nurse when it’s your mom or dad.”
He continued, “Ninety-nine percent of the time, the patient will tell you, ‘I’m ready, but you need to take care of my family.’ We help guide the family on what’s next.”
“My dad was ready spiritually,” David offered. “But I was amazed that hospice made the whole process pain-free and dignified. My dad taught me how to die [well]; that was his last lesson to me,” he said fondly. His own experience with his dad gave him more empathy and understanding for other hospice families.
A Hospice Expert’s Most Important Advice
“Don’t wait to call on hospice,” offered David as his number-one advice he’d give to families in need. Many times, families should call three or four months sooner than they typically do to get the full advantages of hospice care. Read this previous Heart to Heart blog post on the Benefits of Starting Hospice Care Sooner.
Families may feel like they are giving up, but the reality is, death is inevitable for everyone. Engaging with hospice care earlier in the process helps caregivers become more confident and meet the holistic needs of the patient. Hospice is covered by Medicare or Medicaid, and patients and families can determine which hospice company to use. Read more here about Eligibility and Paying for Hospice.
Choosing a hospice company with a reputation for professional care and personal life-affirming comfort helps alleviate stress and uncertainty. David said that the Heart to Heart Hospice team in Texas’s Gulf Coast is experienced and cohesive, with very little turnover for RNs, CNAs, and clinical managers. Some of them have served in the hospice industry together for two decades.
“We don’t get holidays and will take care of you when you, your doctors, and family need it,” he noted. “One year, we admitted 13 patients on Christmas Eve.” They work together, rely on each other, grieve their patients together, and counsel each other. He’s proud of the “great team” they’ve created in Southeast Texas.
Heart to Heart Hospice is known for its compassionate care and comfort, support, and dignity for patients and families. If you live in Texas, Michigan, or Indiana and need hospice care for you or a loved one, discover if Heart to Heart serves your area and call today.