Author Archive for Larry Patten

Hospice and a Lingering Pandemic

Sheltering during virus

The essay with the most comments on this website was written in May 2016, almost four years ago. There were immediate responses to the article when it was first posted. More readers have added their thoughts in each passing year. I felt it essential to include a version of that “popular” article as a chapter in my 2019 A Companion for the Hospice Journey book.

It was on lingering death.

It was about those deaths that take more time than anyone—the medical professionals and the caregivers—ever expected or predicted.

We in hospice inform families that our comfort care is for those who have been given six months or less to live. That is a hard message to properly convey! When hearing from their doctor, or perhaps a hospice nurse who is the first to explain about the comfort care vs. cure services, there are families unable to comprehend the “six months” part. Maybe they are foolishly optimistic, or maybe they are dumbfounded by the new and terrible diagnosis, but some families are convinced their dying beloved will “graduate” from hospice care. Why, six months from now, won’t their spouse or parent beat the disease and return to . . . normal?

Normal? Read More →

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Everything has Changed

Mormon Temple

On a typical early Saturday morning, there are usually a dozen to a hundred cars in the lot. Not last Saturday . . .

Not long ago, I called a young man in Boston, Massachusetts. His beloved grandmother had died in my California-based hospice’s care about four months ago. As with all hospices, we continue grief support after the death. Sending monthly letters with helpful information for a full year is one of our several “tools” for ongoing contact.

He had appreciated the first mailings.

In that recent call to his home in Boston, he asked me to stop the mail.

Why? The novel coronavirus. This pandemic. This disrupter of every aspect of our living, and our dying. How things have changed in a day, in a week, in a year. The young man shared that he was more reluctant to take the short trip to his mailbox. And he had read cautionary words about sealing envelopes with a moistened cloth versus a quick tongue lick. My hospice sends thousands of letters out every month: we don’t lick each envelope! But how can the receiver of the mail tell the difference when fearful or worried?

Wasn’t he overreacting? Read More →

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When Food is Not the Answer

Please sir, more

“Please, sir,” replied Oliver, “I want some more.”

How often have you asked a variation of these:

  • Want to get some coffee?
  • What are you taking to the potluck?
  • Do you have time for lunch next week?
  • Can we get together for dinner and talk about it?
  • How about kicking back and ordering pizza tonight?
  • When are we going to that new restaurant?

We are a food-friendly people. And rightly so!

Whether it’s a romantic restaurant meal that became a turning point in your relationship or the thin gruel fed to Charles Dickens’ fictional orphans, food nourishes us. We have favorite food linked to memories, like my pal Juanita’s Sock-It-To-Me cake from long-ago birthdays. Please give me a good movie, a comfy couch, and then add the chips and salsa with cheddar cheese melted on top. Years later, friends can recall meals at great restaurants. We have stories about cheap meals on a date with the person we married. We munch on popcorn or peanuts and can’t stop grabbing one more handful. We have that comfort food Mom made—for me it was potato salad, ranger cookies, or fried chicken—that no one else in the world can duplicate. We swap family recipes, sneak junk food, taste the sample “snacks” at Costco, and on rare, fun occasions eat breakfast for dinner because, well, just because!

In hospice, one of the toughest times for an individual or a family caring for a loved one is when that person no longer wants to eat. Read More →

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