Hospice – Page 3

Do I Have Months (Weeks, Days) to Live?

In the weekly review of our new patients, time contradictions are frequently part of their stories.

A nurse or social worker will include a variation of, “Just before he went to the hospital, his physician told him he had months to live.”

I immediately think . . . of course that’s what the doctor said, since Medicare regulations unambiguously state a person appropriate for hospice has six months or less to live.

My thought occurred in split seconds, and before I’m finished thinking it, the same nurse or social worker continues their summary with, “However, while our patient was in the hospital, his surgeon told him he had less than a week to live.”

Months to live . . . one doctor said.

Less than a week to live . . . another doctor said. Read More →

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Is This Pill Gonna Kill Me?

Blue pill? Red pill? Choose…


“Is this pill gonna kill me?”

That was a question an elderly patient asked his grandson, according to the hospice nurse who witnessed the moment.

The grandson was one of several family members caring for their dying patriarch. As with every hospice patient, several doctors agreed the grandfather had a terminal illness. A long life neared its end. The man’s family sought to ensure he was comfortable and that his death would be peaceful. There were no guarantees, but they’d try . . . with help from hospice.

Like many patients, the elderly gentleman distrusted pills. They were too darn expensive. There were way too many pills to swallow. Even though he was told the medicine would help him feel better, some seemed to do nothing. He believed others made him feel worse. Or they did cause him to feel better, but he wouldn’t admit it. Or maybe they had nothing to do with him feeling better or worse, but those over-priced, twice-a-day, after-a-meal, on-an-empty-stomach endless bottles of pills sure were convenient to blame. Read More →

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Say This (But Not That) to the Griever

If you settle down into a chair beside them what can you say?

In a recent bereavement call I made to a woman grieving her husband’s death, she abruptly stated, “I never like it when someone asks, ‘How are you doing?’”


I was glad I hadn’t posed that question to her, though I’ll bet the majority of my calls include a variation of that simple four-word query. She said she didn’t like the question because the answer was too obvious: she was feeling lousy, terrible, horrible, and sometimes worse . . . thank you very much. She easily cried and knew she needed to cry and didn’t want to cry. She missed her husband and the illness that took his life was unexpected and unfair. Dealing with dying and death and grief were all inevitable events she’d prefer to avoid.

But she couldn’t. Read More →

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