“However,” the hospice nurse continued while describing a patient, “right now she is very labile.”
As the nurse shared additional information about the patient to the rest of the hospice team, my feeble mind wandered. I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about words. I keep my dictionary near my desk. I pay attention to new words in the books I read. Searching for word meanings and histories on the web may give me as much pleasure as when a pitcher throws a strikeout or an attorney finds the key witness for a case. But I had no idea what labile meant.
Later (of course!), I looked it up. It’s pronounced Lay-Bile. According to an online dictionary, it means . . .
- Apt or likely to change.
- Chemistry. (of a compound) capable of changing state or becoming inactive when subjected to heat or radiation.
Now I understood that the nurse’s patient was rapidly changing. Maybe the patient had been able to walk not long before but had become bed bound. Maybe yesterday or last week, she’d been preparing her own meals, but now required assistance. Maybe pain had dramatically increased and additional medications would need to be considered.
In hospice, change happens frequently and quickly. In other words, patients are labile, and rarely by choice. Read More →by