What If a Hospice Patient Asks: “Will I Get Better?”

lie or truth

The simplest of questions are asked before someone enters into a hospice’s care. Versions of those questions continue after a hospice staff has arrived at a home or facility to serve the needs of a dying patient.

Simple doesn’t mean easy.

Simple can be the hardest of all.

The hospice patient asks . . .

  • Will I get better?
  • What is wrong with me?
  • When can I walk again?
  • Must I take all those drugs?
  • Why aren’t I hungry?

I’m sure other equally “simple” questions have been asked. Truly, what is more straightforward than a person wondering when or if they might regain the strength to walk? Or to want to know why they feel so “off?” Or to request why new medications are supposed to be taken? Read More →

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Williams and Damon

Near death, is hearing our last form of active connection with others?

I’ve witnessed doctors urging adult children to continue sharing essential information with a comatose parent. And I’ve also witnessed nurses warning friends or family members to be careful with all conversations during a hospital visit. Even a patient that seems “out of it” may hear arguments. The patient may comprehend that one sibling is berating another for not “pulling the plug.” I’ve been in rooms when individuals have joked about trivial things, completely ignoring their friend or family member. I’ve also been with people who stood on opposite sides of a hospital bed while debating money, cremation vs. burial, or where they’d have dinner later that night.

  • What is the last thing you want your loved one to hear?
  • Will you refer to him in the third person, as if he was not present in the room?
  • What if she overhears criticism or gossip about a family member, or about her?
  • Why are you grousing about colleagues at work or whining about incompetent teachers at your kid’s school?

Talk to your loved one, not over them.

Talk with them, not about them.

Be kind. Be gentle. Be honest. Be hopeful. Be present. Read More →

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In the Time of the Bad Prefixes


Are we living in dystopian times?

Why do I feel so dismal during this disastrous pandemic?

“Don’t diss me, man.”

I first heard the slang diss in the 1980s, probably from a film or on TV. I’d always assumed it began in the raucous hip-hop music movement. An abbreviation of disrespect, the shorter diss made for easier rhyming and—at first—insider language for the hip-hop world. But lexicographer Jonathon Green found a reference for diss in a 1906 Australian newspaper. Was the slang term actually born in the land “down under?”

Because of my hospice work, I hear similar-sounding prefixes. Instead of diss, I have learned other uses of the prefix dys on a regular basis. I recall a patient care meeting where a nurse explained—clinically and efficiently—the long list of comorbidities for a new hospice admission. The patient also had, the nurse said, dystonia.

Dystonia . . . dys-what?

My first thought was predictable: I’d never heard of it before. A second thought quickly crowded into my mind: whatever “dystonia” described, it wasn’t gonna be a good thing. Read More →

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