Stillwater News Press

December 28, 2013

Judith Karman Hospice assists patients, families to the end

By Megan Sando
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Judith Karman Hospice is more than giving care to those who are given six months or less to live. It’s a legacy that the community is fortunate to have.

Established in 1979 by Judith Karman, it’s the state’s oldest running hospice.

Since then, the nonprofit has helped more than 3,000 families, an average of 100 every year.

When Valerie Bloodgood got a call from her mother’s doctor, he told her the liver cancer would give her mother, Yvonne Zayeat, less than a month to live.

The vascular dementia had already caused her memory to deteriorate.

When Bloodgood called Karman, they called the physician and arranged the rest.

A hospice nurse would visit Zayeat at an assisted living center to help give medications, shower, fix her hair and nails, and make her feel as comfortable as possible.

“What they allowed me to do was focus on quality time with my mother,” Bloodgood said. “I didn’t have to worry.”

Part of the nurse’s job is to give warning to the family as the patient starts to approach death. The care began weekly, then a couple of times a week and then daily, depending on what her mother needed.

“What I remember is having a great sense of peace by the type of care they gave,” she said.

In her mother’s final days, Bloodgood took her on drives through nature. She lived five months longer than predicted.

Bloodgood said her mother wasn’t confined to a bed the entire time, but on an outing one day she made a decision.

“She said to me, ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore,’” Bloodgood said.

Because loved ones don’t always know what their dying relatives need, the hospice helps to relieve emotional distress.

Bloodgood would ask herself, “Am I making the right decision?”

Nurses helped her to come to the best decision for her mother until she passed away Sept. 10.

Bloodgood believed in Judith Karman. After her experience, she decided to apply for volunteer coordinator and got the job.

“I know I could not have managed the physical and the emotional aspects of caring for my mother without the hospice’s help,” she said.

 Registered nurse Brandi Bishop said death is as important as giving birth.

She often experiences patients going through life reviews and feels blessed to be a hospice nurse.

Every Wednesday, staff gather to have a private candlelight ceremony to share memories of those who have passed.

“It’s a place where we can talk about our feelings and have closure,” Bishop said. “Every family will go through something like this.”

Hospice nurses go through many losses in their lifetime.

Executive Director Lisa Smith said most people don’t know that a nurse must also grieve when a patient they get to know dies in their care.

People of all financial backgrounds can seek out service from Judith Karman. The nonprofit takes pride in never having a family pay out of pocket for care.

The hospice relies on donations, Medicare, private insurance, the Karman Korner resale store and United Way.

Smith said United Way funding is small but invaluable. A person given six months or less to live by a physician won’t be turned away.

“What we do impacts forever,” she said. “It is amazing that because of one woman, 3,400 families have been helped.”