Mary Carlson, hospice nurse, eases final journey for patients and their families

March 27, 2012

Gaylord Ahneman, a tall, once-robust man, has lived 90 good years. He loved to hunt and fish in Minnesota and recall his years in the Army Air Forces in Africa during World War II. A proud veteran, he spent five decades in the newspaper circulation business and has three children and seven grandchildren. He lives with his daughter in a cozy ranch house in outer Southeast Portland.

But last October, Ahneman learned he had terminal cancer. Doctors gave him six months, maybe less.

Enter Mary Carlson, a nurse who specializes in hospice care.

Everyone approaches death differently, and Carlson, 51, has eased the way for many. As a hospice nurse with Providence Hospice, she visits terminal patients in their homes, zeroing in on comfort in their remaining time. Hospice allows patients to stay at home, but care emphasizes comfort, not a cure. She extends her care to family members, too.

"In hospice, you have two patients," she says. "The patient and the family. Caregivers don't care for themselves. They can get exhausted."

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