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The Story of Robert*

Robert was grateful when his brother Michael said they could move in together to a public housing unit. Grateful because he knew it was a tall order, asking his brother to care for him during the last stages of his illness. And grateful because, for most of their lives, they didn’t exactly have the best relationship.

A self-described “man’s man” Robert was a Vietnam veteran who lived a tough life and lost his way from his childhood faith of Judaism. Now, at age 66, his doctor at the VA Medical Center diagnosed him with lung cancer. After three rounds of chemotherapy, the cancer didn’t show signs of going away. That is when Robert’s doctor suggested he call Samaritan Hospice.

Robert and Michael almost immediately received deliveries of equipment to make life easier – first, morphine and oxygen, then a walker, a special commode and an adjustable bed to make everyday tasks less complicated and less stressful. Within 48 hours of Robert’s admission as a hospice patient he reported to his nurse that he was comfortable and no longer in pain.

They were both surprised that Samaritan Hospice provided everything Robert needed, without any charge. They knew that Medicare covered hospice care, but they just didn’t think that Samaritan Hospice would provide everything they needed without billing Robert for the difference between what Medicare paid for and what was actually spent to care for Robert.

With his immediate physical pain alleviated, Robert and Michael could focus on the bigger picture. The brothers’ biggest concern was practical – neither of them had the money to pay for services after Robert passed. Robert was too ill to work and Michael worked at a job that paid just above minimum wage. All Robert knew is that he wanted to be laid to rest at a military cemetery, but he didn’t know what to do to make that happen. Neither of the men knew who to turn to – after their parents died years earlier they lost their connection to their local synagogue.

Robert’s spiritual support counselor, a rabbi, understood the challenge. “It’s not uncommon for me to care for Jews who were not active in their faith for most of their adult lives,” Rabbi Ilene Schneider said. “As patients and families face terminal illness, they oftentimes turn to the religion that they grew up with to help them cope.”

With Robert’s social worker and spiritual support counselor working together, Robert’s specific spiritual, cultural, and religious needs were met. Rabbi Schneider was even able to arrange for a local funeral home to waive its fee.

Samaritan Hospice provided comfort and care to Robert – and to Michael as well – for four weeks. With Michael by his side, Robert passed away peacefully and without pain on a sunny Sunday morning. With guidance from Robert’s Samaritan Hospice team, Michael was able to make sure that his brother’s last wish was honored, as Robert was interred at a local military cemetery.

*Please note that while the story here is true, to protect the patient’s privacy we have changed his name.