Loosing Son Made Easier with the help of Hospice
Dean Morath was a compassionate, fun-loving person with a huge appetite for life despite adversity. Born with a heart defect and a cleft lip palate, he lived his life to the full before passing away in the North Shore Hospice at the age of 29. His mother, Maree Lane, remembers her son.
'He was an amazing young man,' Maree says. 'Dean was a real people person and he had a remarkable attitude to life. He had great courage. He lived life to the max and didn't let his health problems get in the way, although in the last 18 months of his life his heart condition became an issue, and in the last six months it became a major problem.'
Despite his worsening health, Dean had a 'bucket list' of things that he wanted to do before he 'kicked the bucket.' He enjoyed travel and went to the United States with Koru Care, and had trips to Australia. But he hadn't been to Samoa and he was very determined to go. 'Even though his heart was not working well, and he came back with very swollen feet' said Maree, he loved his time there.'
Although consistently upbeat and positive despite his failing health, there was a phase when Dean felt angry. 'Dean wanted to celebrate his 30th birthday, and was very angry when told by the hospital doctors that this wasn't going to happen. So we decided to have a 29.5 birthday party instead, in January!'
Dean made the choice to go into Hospice. 'A Hospice nurse came to visit and talked through everything with him,' says Maree. 'She described Hospice as a home away from home with a lovely bath, and I knew when they mentioned the bath that he would probably be sold on Hospice as he loved taking baths!'
Maree feels that Dean decided to go into Hospice for the excellent facilities and care on offer and also to spare her from the unrelenting work of being his carer 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
'Another thing on his 'bucket list' was having a ride in an ambulance, and he wasn't disappointed at all with the experience of the ambulance racing down the motorway with all the sirens screaming!'
Dean quickly settled into Hospice. For a time he didn't want to leave his room as he was enjoying it so much. And Maree was able to finally pass over the responsibility for his care and let go.
'I was so knackered I just bawled my eyes out,' she says. 'I was able to step back from being the main carer and was even able to go home at night as I knew Dean had the best of possible care, and the care was fantastic.
Whatever he wanted he could have in Hospice. They looked after his every need, including whatever food he felt like. If he wanted ice cream, he had it. He loved chicken broth, so Tammy used to make that for him all the time. There was an attitude from everyone that if he wanted something at 4am he could have it. And the baths? Well he enjoyed soaking in the bath every day except one, during his time in Hospice.'
Dean was determined to continue fulfilling his bucket list. He had 16 visitors a day on average and he really enjoyed their company “although he would say to them 'I don't mean to be rude, but I'm tired' so people would know when to go home. Many days Maree had the opportunity to take Dean for drives and for outings in his wheelchair “but when he requested a trip to Waiheke Island Maree knew this would be a challenge.
'He went to Waiheke to the old family bach,' say Maree. 'It was something he really wanted to do, although Hospice staff were concerned and asked me what I would do if he died over there. But we went, and while it was a real mission, it was an amazing day. Old friends came to visit and Dean really enjoyed it. We did think "this is it" as he was so unwell, but he lasted another 3 weeks.'
Maree was amazed to learn that Hospice care was completely free. 'I assumed I would be given a bill, and once Dean was in Hospice I started to stress about it. I eventually got quite upset and opened up about my fears of how much such fantastic care would cost, thinking I would have to take out another mortgage. I was assured I would never receive a bill and that was such a relief.'
Although Maree describes the desolation of losing her only son “not long after the deaths of her beloved father and husband “she also took comfort in knowing that Dean was at peace when the end was approaching.
'He was very open about what was happening, and his faith was a huge comfort for him and a great benefit.
Dean was an ambassador for Starjam (a group for young disabled people) and he used to say to me he would be their first ambassador in heaven. He was ready. We talked about his funeral and what would happen after he was gone. He chose a coffin “an unusual one with dolphins all over it. We had a very special time when he was in Hospice. We talked a lot and giggled and there was a lot of black humour.
'The night before Dean died he took a bath and told me to go home. In hindsight I think he knew the end was coming and deliberately sent me away. He died the next morning at 6am.'
The way Hospice dealt so compassionately with everyone after Dean had passed away really impressed Maree. Friends and family were able to spend the day coming to see Dean to say their good byes. 'It was almost like a party in room 2,' says Maree.
Maree now has grief counselling through Hospice every fortnight. 'It's ongoing and very helpful. I spend an hour and a half crying and laughing and just talking about Dean. It is very therapeutic. I have great days and I feel guilty about not crying, and then I have really bad days where I cry all the time!'
Maree is full of praise for the way Hospice helped her and Dean during the final weeks of his life. 'I took four months off work to nurse Dean and it was a huge privilege to be with Dean during that time “but it was especially wonderful to have the support of Hospice. I was so impressed by the Hospice staff and the love they had for Dean. They told me that they really enjoyed nursing him and that they were impressed with the courage he had.
Dean and I had a positive experience even though he was dying. And I wouldn't have been able to cope without the support of Hospice. They gave us wonderful suggestions and supported us every step of the way.
I would regularly phone at 10 and 11 at night and it wasn't a problem. I had a few meltdowns and they provided wonderful support. It was good talking to them as everyone was so compassionate. Dean and I both formed real friendships with people that really cared. Despite the sadness, it was a brilliant experience.'
We regularly state that patients admitted to our In Patient Unit stay for an average of 7 days. Admission can be for respite care, symptom control or end of life care. It is not usual to keep patients in for longer terms. However, every now and then there are exceptions and Dean was one of them.
Dr Richard Corkill Hospice Registrar explains:
"Dean initially came to Hospice for respite care as his Mum had not been able to leave his side and was sleep deprived and exhausted. By admitting him we were able to give Maree the confidence to go home, rest and recharge her batteries, knowing that he was in caring and professional hands. It also gave us the opportunity to monitor and evaluate his condition. For many of our patients, their terminal disease course is slow, gradual and fairly predictable.
However Dean's non-malignant condition was characterised by a "more difficult to predict" disease course. He had a number of worrying warning signs of impending death, but estimating how long Dean had was just guesswork.
There is little in the way of continuing care support in long stay facilities for people of Dean's age and Maree had cared for him for a very long time which had taken its toll. Because of this and the fact that Dean's symptoms were complicated and required specialist and careful management, we believed it was best for all that we keep him in the Hospice.
This decision made a big difference not only for Dean, but for his family. We ensured he was as well as possible during his time with us. Maree was able to spend her time with him as his mother and leave his care to us. He was able to have laughs with his mates who came to visit and to be able to say goodbye “and while we had some concerns, he was able to go out on 'good' days.
It was a great pleasure to be able to look after Dean and his family for his last few weeks in Hospice. Dean had a passion for living life to the maximum and touched many of the staff at Hospice during his stay."
Whilst these were exceptional circumstances, North Shore Hospice is able to demonstrate flexibility in our service provision when patients cannot be safely / appropriately cared for at home or in other care settings.