My family and I interviewed around four different hospices for my dad, who at the time was living in a facility and had had alzheimers for a while but was newly diagnosed with cancer. We chose Heartland because they were the only hospice agency that not only didn't require my dad to give up his chemotherapy, but they paid for it.
We really didn't know anything about what to expect or what hospice was or what it meant, and Heartland literally held our hand through my dad's entire disease process. Where his doctors and the staff at the facility didn't want to tell us any bad news about my dad's illnesses and weren't THAT involved (and part of that may have been because they treat so many people they aren't experts in any one illness), Heartland both helped us understand exactly what was going, what to expect, and how they were going to help. They knew exactly how to be there for us, supporting us as my dad went through a million different, very difficult changes. I loved them because instead of hopping my dad up on morphine, instead they used all these alternative therapies like a music therapist who would come and sit with my dad and help regulate his pain through music. I honestly thought the music therapy was going to be more like music entertainment until I saw how she interacted with my dad with my own eyes, and she was so great she explained how music therapy is evidence based and how she was clinically trained to manage pain through music. It was a level of care I was not expecting but was grateful for, as it allowed us to have more interaction with my dad without him being doped up on pain killers.
He also had volunteers who would come and read him his favorite stories, go through family albums with him, take him outside for fresh air when my siblings and I had to work. He wasn't super religious but he had a chaplain who would come and talk to him in ways he could relate about spirituality, even with having dementia. He had extra nurses and doctors and nurses aids to just be an extra part of his care team and make sure he wasn't in any pain or needed anything. His nurses trained the staff at the facility to recognize the small changes that happen when someone declines, and at two in the morning we got a phone call from the Heartland's hospice team saying it looked like he might be actively dying, so we all drove out there to be with him. Heartland's spiritual counselor and his nurse met us there, and they told us what was happening and what to expect, and helped us not be afraid but to really be there in the moment, to hold his hand, to be there for him, to talk to him and how to care for him as he went through these changes. Without the Heartland team, we probably wouldn't have even known my dad had died until hours after. Instead my entire family had the opportunity to have this powerful moment, to be there with and for the man who raised and loved us as he died. I'm so grateful for them, for how Heartland transformed what could have been a horrible experience into a memory of peace and love and bonding with my family.
My dad passed last year but Heartland's bereavement team still counsels my family and is there for us as we grieve. I couldn't have asked for a more competent, caring, knowledgeable organization to walk us through what was my dad's inevitable decline. I wish we had known about them sooner, I wish his facility or social worker or physician had told us to look at hospice companies when he was first diagnosed with alzheimers, and not waiting until he had cancer to say something.
To this day I don't understand why no one told us Heartland was a free service my dad would have qualified for months and months before he died. I think it's a shame he missed out on a longer period of care from Heartland, but I am thankful he got that care at all and I am happy to tell everyone I know how wonderful Heartland was in caring for my dad, and still to this day caring for my family. I cannot recommend them enough.