Archive for Coronavirus

In the Time of the Bad Prefixes

prefix

Are we living in dystopian times?

Why do I feel so dismal during this disastrous pandemic?

“Don’t diss me, man.”

I first heard the slang diss in the 1980s, probably from a film or on TV. I’d always assumed it began in the raucous hip-hop music movement. An abbreviation of disrespect, the shorter diss made for easier rhyming and—at first—insider language for the hip-hop world. But lexicographer Jonathon Green found a reference for diss in a 1906 Australian newspaper. Was the slang term actually born in the land “down under?”

Because of my hospice work, I hear similar-sounding prefixes. Instead of diss, I have learned other uses of the prefix dys on a regular basis. I recall a patient care meeting where a nurse explained—clinically and efficiently—the long list of comorbidities for a new hospice admission. The patient also had, the nurse said, dystonia.

Dystonia . . . dys-what?

My first thought was predictable: I’d never heard of it before. A second thought quickly crowded into my mind: whatever “dystonia” described, it wasn’t gonna be a good thing. Read More →

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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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