Increased Difficulty in Swallowing

The patient has dysphagia . . . huh?

I might react by responding, “That sounds Greek to me!” In other words, I don’t honestly don’t get it. It doesn’t make sense.

In the case of dysphagia, it’s literally a Greek word and probably hard to pronounce (dis-fay-gee-a) for most folks. The roots of the word are relatively simple. Dys is a prefix for, “No.” Think of the more commonly used dysfunctional or—because of novels like the Hunger Games series—an unsettling future world referred to as a dystopia. Dysfunction = no function. Dystopia = no good place.

The suffix phagia, though more obscure, is also relatively simple: eating. Read More →

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DNR Decisions

I overheard a chaplain chatting with a social worker about a patient.

“She [the patient] asked me,” the chaplain said, “if a DNR order would interfere with her getting to heaven.”

My two colleagues slowly moved away from me. I don’t know if the social worker responded, or what the chaplain had explained to the patient after she asked her heavenly question. Maybe my two colleagues continued talking about this patient or shifted to other subjects.

I’m not sure anyone could tell the patient about heaven’s entry requirements. Different faith traditions have different views of the “better place” after death. Humans have pondered Valhalla and Nirvana and Paradise and Heaven for millennia. I’ve read and heard some Christians describe heaven as far more difficult to enter than an Ivy League school. I’ve read and heard other believers claim the “pearly gates” are wide and welcoming for every soul. Read More →

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6 of the 13 Things Someone Should Tell You About Hospice

[I am writing a book on hospice. One section includes 13 Things people should know about hospice. There are far more than thirteen, but I wanted a manageable list for someone suddenly trying to learn about hospice. Below are the first six.

I ask for your help. What was missed that you think should be known about hospice? Maybe your suggestion will be similar to one of the remaining seven not included here. Or maybe it will help me add a better one! I look forward to suggestions.]

#1 – Hospice is (not) about giving up.

When hospice is considered, many people (including doctors) declare a variation of: “There’s nothing more we can do.” No cures remain. No procedures will stop the disease’s progression. No cutting-edge experimental drugs will make a difference. It’s time to throw in the towel, cash in the chips, raise the white flag . . . hey, wait!

Hospice, with its six months or less to live, is designed to maximize time with family, to express and/or receive love, forgiveness, and gratitude. Hospice care can include long chats about today and shared memories about yesterday. Unfortunately, many patients are near death when entering hospice. [Based on 2016 data, 27.9% of patients die in a week or less.] I do think too many wait too long to even consider hospice. Since hospice is a choice, and allows people to be at home and engage with the loved ones in their life, it is not about giving up. It is a choice to make the most of every precious day. Read More →

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