Hospice nurse Renee Beccue helps ease patients’ last days

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Hospice care provides a team of physicians, nurses and other professionals to help manage the spiritual and emotional aspects of end-of-life care.

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Renee Beccue

Renee Beccue helps ease the process of dying.

She is an on-call registered nurse with Lower Cape Fear Hospice in Wilmington. Beccue, originally from Buffalo, N.Y., had primarily worked in intensive care units with burn patients.

She had accompanied doctors when they announced deaths of patients to their families and saw that this experience could allow her to transition into hospice nursing.

“Hospice and palliative care is a growing field,” said Beccue.

Part of what hospice care provides, is in-home equipment for patients, such as hospital beds, so they can spend their last days in the comfort of their own home. There is also a team of physicians, nurses and other professionals to help manage the spiritual and emotional aspects of end-of-life care.

And while hospice doesn’t provide in-home, around-the-clock medical care, it does have providers on call to help manage medical needs.

That’s where Beccue comes in.

Beccue doesn’t have a fixed caseload of patients, but she receives calls at night when hospice patients are in need of medical care that the family or caregiver feels is outside their capability. Beccue travels to a few counties for on-call needs, including Onslow and Pender as well as New Hanover.

The calls she receives can be anything from discussing fall prevention to pronouncement of death. Part of the medical care received in home is to help the patient remain in the home with fewer trips to the hospital.

“We try to prevent readmission to the hospital,” Beccue said.

Her care as a hospice nurse is twofold, therapeutic listening and education. Education consists of teaching the family or caregivers the basics of caring for a sick person who will continue to decline. Beccue calls this the “palliative care mindset, not curative.”

She teaches the family to change the bed and bathe the patient while he is still in the bed. Beccue says the care needs of hospice patients are constantly changing because they continue to get sicker. She also teaches the family what they can expect to see from the patient depending upon his disease.

Beccue also helps patients understand what they are experiencing. She consoles them and emphasizes the importance of “judgment-free” care as a hospice provider. Beccue realizes that many people are not familiar with the medical terms being used and she sincerely tells families and patients to call her with any questions.

Beccue primarily tends to the patients’ medical needs, but in the process of dying, people often work through a life review. Many patients do not truly grasp their prognosis for a variety of reasons until Beccue arrives at their home. She sometimes helps patients face the truth that she has been assigned to them because they have a prognosis of six months or less left to live.

“That’s when they cry,” Beccue said.

She tries to be the voice of reason and help them to understand that the feelings they are experiencing are normal. She can assist with adjusting medication when anxiety is overwhelming and to help mitigate physical pain.

Beccue says it’s important to allow patients to feel. “You can’t make a stage 4 diagnosis nice,” Beccue said.

She has seen patients move through bitterness, anger and unresolved issues and hospice does provide social workers to help counsel the patient through that process.

While death is frightening for many people, Beccue sees it as a part of living. And death isn’t all scary and sad. Many times she turns on music for patients, helps them sit by their favorite window and watch the birds they’ve enjoyed their whole lives. Also, the presence of beloved pets is important to comforting patients.

Some patients want to sit and look at the garden they worked in for years. Beccue says one patient asked to sit by the window and watch the golf course every day.

After years of being with hospice patients Beccue has learned a few tips about working with the dying. She recommends being upfront and honest about prognosis, allowing honest feelings about that prognosis and ultimately finding peace and joy in death, which is the ultimate rite of passage for all of us.

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