Hospice

World’s Best Pie and a Perfect Death

At a weekly hospice patient care meeting, the medical director shared about a patient longing for one last overnight trip to the family’s mountain cabin. The drive would take a couple of hours from his home to the place the patient’s grandfather had built before World War II.

“I’d like to sit on the front porch again,” the patient had said. “In the early morning, you can always see deer grazing on their way to the lake.” The patient then added, “And there’s a diner not too far away with the world’s best berry pie. I’d like to share a slice with my Annie for old time’s sake.”

Annie was his wife of five decades.

“Would it be okay if we go?” Read More →

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On Guns and Hospice: Is Everyone Safe?

“Is it safe?”

That was the riveting question repeatedly asked in the 1976 film Marathon Man. During a grim and crucial scene, Sir Laurence Olivier’s menacing character demanded—as he wielded dental equipment in the worst way—to know if what he planned to do could be safely accomplished.

“Is it safe?”

Dustin Hoffman’s “innocent man” paid an excruciating price for every hesitation, every uncertainty.

I sometimes think of that scene when one of our hospice’s social workers announces that a patient’s house is safe. When we talk about a new patient entering hospice care, the question about safety must be asked and answered.

Which is to say, are there are any guns in the home? Read More →

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There’s No Gift Like Cancer?

This is what a hospice nurse said the patient said:

“My cancer is a gift from God.”

What is your first reaction to that? How about something like, You’ve got to be kidding!

Or . . . Does that patient have a terminal and mental illness? Or you’d be speechless and roll your eyes . . . or shake your head and mutter several tsk-tsks . . . or clamp your jaw shut because Mom told you that if you didn’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Or would you nod your head in reluctant agreement?

Can you imagine that last reaction—nodding and agreeing—to the patient’s pronouncement? I can, though it helped to hear the nurse’s report of the patient’s complete sentence . . . Read More →

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