Giving the Gift of Comfort

With help from her nurses, a patient signs her daughter’s birthday card, knowing this is the last time she will do so.

A wife embraces her husband, sharing a final dance before she is helped back to bed.

Jayme Persch, RN, has witnessed many final moments like these at Solvay Hospice House. “They are things I’ll never forget,” she says. “I feel blessed to be part of people’s lives during those moments.”

Jayme, who has been a nurse for 14 years, has spent most of her career in hospice care. She’s been at Solvay for nine years and, before that, she worked in homecare. “There is no greater feeling than witnessing a peaceful and beautiful death,” Jayme says. “It’s comparable to witnessing new life.”

Solvay Hospice House was established by the Miller-Dwan Foundation 10 years ago. Since then, 1,800 patients have been cared for in the home’s warm, comfortable atmosphere. Twelve hospice rooms and inviting open spaces—from a sunroom and meditation area to the dining room and outdoor gazebo — provide plentiful options for both privacy and family connection. Each patient room has a balcony with views of the adjacent forest, as well as a sitting area and large bookcase with shelves. “We encourage people to bring pictures and mementos to make it feel more like home,” Jayme says.

For comfort, Solvay Hospice House offers the best of both worlds: a warm home environment that is Medicare-certified and equipped with the latest medical care and integrative therapies. “That’s the goal of Solvay,” Jayme says. “It doesn’t feel institutionalized here; it’s not like going to the hospital, even though we can and do provide hospital care.”

Making patients as comfortable as possible during the end of life is only part of what nurses at Solvay do. “We become a little bit of everything for families,” Jayme says. “We try to impress on them that our home is their home. We want them to feel comfortable here.” That can mean anything from offering fresh-baked cookies from the kitchen to helping a couple recreate the Hawaiian vacation they couldn’t take.

“It’s not easy all of the time,” says Jayme, “But it’s a gift to provide comfort to someone in their final days. And, we have the support of each other; kind of a big group support network. We all know what we are going through. It can be challenging and rewarding when you get a family to a point of acceptance. I couldn’t do it without the support of my co-workers and family at home.”

And for Solvay staff, hospice means much more than dying. Jayme says that people often come to Solvay with the perception that this is the end of the road, or that hospice is depressing. Often, they are fearful. Her greatest hope, however, is to help change that perspective, to help people understand that hospice is about living as fully as possible until you die. People at Solvay can experience joy and peace. They can spend time with their grandchildren and read their favorite book without the stresses of family care and without pain. “We do things here that are about more than death,” says Jayme. “Solvay is such a beautiful place – people who come through the door are offered a sense of peace. To know your loved one is no longer suffering can be really rewarding.”

To help Solvay continue its mission of providing compassionate end-of-life care, please consider a gift to the Solvay Legacy Fund. Learn more here, or by calling the Miller-Dwan Foundation office at 218-786-5829.