Hospice

When Loved Ones Die Alone

Please, I don’t want to face death alone.

I’d prefer to take a last breath in my home.

I long to die peacefully; in my sleep.

Not a burden; nor someone hard to keep.

Let me say the goodbyes,

Then close my eyes.

And . . . die.

Amen.

What would be your prayer?

What would be your hope?

What would be your plan? Or lack of plans, because some fickle or faithful part of nearly all of us are wishful thinkers, people that dread the hard conversations or avoid the unsettling subjects or put off until tomorrow—even the next decade—any conversation about the solemn, scary subject of . . .

Dying.

My death.

My parents wanted to grow old and die at home. The mortgage was paid. The landscaping well-tended and mature. The rooms held memories. There was cozy furniture and well-lighted spaces.

They did not die at home. Read More →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Hospice Care and Your Coccyx (er, Derrière)

With apologies to our feathered friends…

The nurse gave her morning report on the condition of a patient, an elderly gentleman with congestive heart failure. She noted concerns about his food intake and breathing, confirmed he’d lost weight in recent weeks, and reminded other hospice staff about his fall on the way to the bathroom before he became a hospice patient.

“Anything else?” the hospice medical director asked.

After a glance at her laptop screen, the nurse responded, “Some skin tears around the coccyx. But it’s mostly under control and healing.”

The doctor nodded. Good job. Next patient. Read More →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Speaking the Deepest Truths of Grief

Putting a time limit on grief is like standing on the beach…

It was a tour of the hospice offices. Simple stuff.

But there was that guy.

Why didn’t I keep my trap shut?

Couldn’t I have read his mind? (Or, realistically, detected a hint of pain?)

As a professional, possessing a solid educational background and years of experience, how come I didn’t have right words at the right time to voice? But, as it’s jokingly and seriously said, sometimes . . . “Shit happens.”

It did that night.

Before explaining further, picture this man. He’s mid-seventies. His clothes are clean, a long-sleeved shirt buttoned at the wrists. His pants are unremarkable, with creases no longer sharp. The shoes need polishing. The crow’s feet framing his eyes have merged with other lines and creases. From forehead to chin, his face is a well-worn 3D topographical map. He’s leaner than beef jerky, and, so—to protect confidentiality—I’ll call him Slim Jim.

On his left hand, the gnarled finger closest to the pinkie, there’s a ring.

I didn’t notice it until later.

A friend shadows him, probably younger by a decade. This guy—let’s call him Nodding Norm—never speaks. But when his friend starts talking in a few minutes, he nods emphatically with every word.

Why was I with these two fellows? Read More →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather