6 Reasons Why Hospice Disappoints


For the dying, and for those caring for dying loved ones in the final season of their life, hospice can feel like earthbound angels have arrived to help you.

I’ve made thousands of phone calls to individuals as part of my hospice job in grief support. I do not exaggerate when declaring that gratitude for hospice staff is frequent. Perhaps the enthusiastic compliments were for a home health aide who regularly visited for months or an admit nurse only with the patient in the beginning moments of hospice care. Both were dubbed “life savers!” Equally true is frequent praise for the entire agency: “Everyone was wonderful to Dad!”

But “frequent” is not 100%. At the Medicare site that compares hospices in the United States, what do you think is the percentage for the statement below?

Family caregivers who would definitely recommend this hospice to friends and family:

___ 62%

___ 70%

___ 84%

___ 90%

___ 94%

In other words, Medicare has determined that ___% of people, after being served by a specific hospice agency, would vouch for that company to the people they know.

One of those five numbers is the correct answer. That means a small to significant percentage of respondents were likely disappointed by the care for their loved one. Read More →

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Mr. Cantankerous Goes Home

You'll Accompany MeFinally, the husband and father came home.

With his family.

He had a “good death.”

His wife, who the patient said that he loved more than life itself, sat beside him until a breath became the final one.

Not yet fifty, he should have been fussing with his vintage Chevy, playing with his first grandkid, or renovating another house with his business partner. Instead, he was stuck in bed. Because he enjoyed rock-and-roll, a lot of music was played during his last days at home. In those precious moments, in those fading breaths, there was one particular song that . . .

But I’m getting ahead of his story. It’s a story with a sad ending because a man too young dies. It’s also a story with a good enough ending, because of those four opening sentences. How I wish everyone’s death (old or young, rich or poor) had some version of those simple, blessed opening sentences. That won’t happen. Some deaths are hard. Some deaths strip a person or family from any opportunity to prepare or plan. Sometimes we deny impending death and then find ourselves grieving not just the person, but our own blindness or stubbornness. Read More →

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When the Last Days Keep Lasting

time and sand

I answered the phone.

The caller explained he wanted information for grief support groups. A friend had recommended the hospice where I work and its bereavement program.

I asked him about his loss.

“My father,” he quickly replied.

“I am so sorry,” I said. “Was he one of our patients?”


I reviewed the basics about the group, encouraging him to ask questions as we went along. I shared the start date and time, the number of sessions, and the costs. At our hospice, there is no charge for attending groups (along with other resources) if the patient was served by us. But this man was “from the community,” and would need to pay a modest fee. I also mentioned we had scholarships.

He asked no questions.

“When did your father die?”

A long pause. I could hear the copy machine whirring across the hall from my office. A bird fluttered by my window.

“He’s still alive, but he’s dead.”

His words now staggered out, like residents escaping a burning apartment building. Gasps and a snuffling of tears sometimes interrupted his explanation. In between weeping, in between him saying “Sorry, sorry,” I learned more. Read More →

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