50, Los Angeles
Hospice Activities Director
Since the first AIDS hospices opened in the late ’80s, thousands of HIVers have rejected a hospital’s colder feel in favor of spending their final days in a hospice. To mark November as National Hospice Month, POZ popped in on HIVer Joey Terrill, activities coordinator at LA’s Carl Bean House for HIVers since 2004:
Why do we need a hospice month?
People’s fear of death prevents them from learning about alternatives like hospice care.
What do the dying need most?
Validation. Also people prefer a home situation, which we try to create. My mother died in a very sterile hospital environment. It was hard to watch.
How does your HIV status affect your work?
I feel more urgency and compassion: Over 50 of my friends have died of AIDS. But it’s not mortality I’ve come to grips with; it’s longevity. Unlike my friends, I’m here—working.
What’s the hardest part?
You form intense bonds, and then residents pass on. But you can measure success. Today, I got someone to listen to a song, and he smiled. I wasn’t even sure he’d be conscious.
To learn more about hospices, visit www.hospicenet.org.