Hospice – Page 3

Ascites and Other Less Obvious Ailments

How easy it can be to downplay our emotional or spiritual anguish.

Occasionally, a nurse at the hospice team meeting will give an incomplete report about a patient. The team leader will prompt the nurse to make sure all the basics are covered. Though my medical knowledge is limited (and that’s a generous assessment), I’ve gone to the meetings long enough to ask a few of the predictable questions . . .

  • Does the patient require oxygen? Is it continuous or as needed?
  • Is he bedbound?
  • What is her F.A.S.T. score?

Because of situations with several recent patients, I’ve added another subject to ask if a nurse forgot to include the information in her overview.

  • Any sign of ascites?

Huh? First, let’s get to the simple, safe stuff: ascites is pronounced uh-site-teez. Read More →

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Fragile: Handle with Care

The woman suddenly cried.

In an intake of a breath, she shifted from smiling and looking a bit weary from work . . . to tears. The person beside her, older and probably her mother, was caught off guard. What do you do with an abruptly weeping thirty-something daughter?

The women had been passing in front of my hospice’s table display. Along with a colleague, I staffed the table—covered by brochures, info packets, resource samples, and some very popular mints for giving away—to answer questions about grief support services.

The sobbing woman stared at the section of the table devoted to our Angel Babies program.

My colleague leaned toward her and asked, quietly, gently, “How long ago?”

“Seven years.”

Seven years since the death of her child.


Let me, with humility and a dose of confidentiality, press the “remote” to pause these sentences. Read More →

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I Don’t Need Help: Guys and Grief

Guys are different.

(No, they’re not!)

When I make a bereavement phone call following a loved one’s death, about half the people that answer the phone are . . . men. Not much of a revelation, right? But men, far more than the women, tend to surprise me after I’ve asked if this is a good time to speak for a few moments . . .

Nope. Don’t want to talk.

There was the guy who didn’t need help from anyone after his wife died. He didn’t say this once—I don’t need any help—but four or five times in the course of our conversation. He didn’t want to talk, didn’t want anyone to worry about him. In between those casual lies, he shared about meeting his wife decades before and how much she’d changed him for the better. He also fretted about how he couldn’t quite muster the energy to head outside to fix the sprinklers and wondered why he had so little energy after waking up in the morning. Part way through our call—I don’t want to talk—he mentioned searching for a serving spoon or measuring cup in the kitchen and discovering one of his wife’s folded aprons in a drawer. It had been made for Mom by their youngest daughter way back in the high school days.

It still held her fragrance.

He—I don’t want to talk—said he stood there, frozen in the middle of the kitchen, the apron pressed to his nose. Read More →

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