Archive for Decisions

Even the Best of Plans…

Don’t make any major changes in the first year . . .

When I’m leading a grief support group for spouses, I always include an open-ended “check in” time. I invite participants to share what has recently happened: did they have a question, was there a good/bad experience during the week, or a hopeful/hurtful encounter with a friend? Whatever they want to talk about, we talk about it. Their needs always trump my plans.

I recall a group member, the moment I invited sharing, asking, “Why do people tell me to sell the house?”

It was a few months after a beloved spouse had died and several well-intentioned friends were pushing this person to downsize. The house was too big. Maintaining it meant nonstop responsibilities. Now, they said, it’s only you rattling around in a bunch of empty rooms. 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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Death is (Not) the Enemy

Hospice always fails you. With few exceptions, our patients . . . die.

Death is a defeat, often perceived as a human failure.

Death is to be battled, and everyone schemes to beat it.

Death is a problem to be solved. On the moon-bound and suddenly crippled Apollo 13, Commander James Lovell famously said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” The prospect of death, between earth and the moon, between our first wail as a newborn and before whatever last breath is taken, should be confronted and conquered.

Avoid death!

Anyone working in hospice has joined the grim reaper gang. We mingle with the life insurance sellers and funeral directors, the coroners and the grave diggers. We are purveyors and surveyors of the forbidden topic. While the rest of society runs from the dying, we stay.

A hospice nurse, training similar to her counterparts in the hospital corridors and emergency rooms, begins the day with a list of patients to visit. While her colleagues are calming a mother about to give birth or prepping for surgery, and will give their all to bring and extend life, the hospice RN has other thoughts . . .

  • Will my patient die today?
  • How can I help her or him die peacefully?
  • How can I honestly answer the family’s request to know when death will come?

Read More →

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