Archive for Doctors

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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Doctors, Hospice, and Plato’s 2,000-Year-Old Comment

A son’s Dad had died about six weeks ago.

I phoned to check on the son and his family. During the brief chat, I learned that his father hailed from Wyoming, had been a wonderful grandfather to his many grandchildren, and how the family was dreading all of the future birthdays and holidays without “Gramps.”

In some of the bereavement calls I make for hospice, no one is home (or no one answers) and I’ll leave a message. Or the call is quick and perfunctory. On occasions, callers talk for quite a while because they’re hurting or lonely. I try to be ready for anything.

In this call, the man whose father had recently died, and who’d been served by hospice for only a handful of days, asked, “Why didn’t Dad’s doctor ever tell us about hospice?” He paused, then shared more of his father’s story. After multiple emergency room trips, procedures attempted and procedures considered, a surgeon had lingered in the father’s hospital room. It was this doctor— unknown to the family hours before—that finally explained the option of hospice. Read More →

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In Hospice, MAC Isn’t About Comfort Food

Mac & Cheese is comfort food, but sometimes . . .

While discussing a new admission, the hospice medical director reminded the patient’s nurse to get a mac.

The nurse immediately nodded. Complete agreement.

A mac? What did the doctor mean? They couldn’t mean a Macintosh computer from Apple, could they? That didn’t make sense. But thoughts of digital apples made me think about real food . . . did they mean Mac & Cheese? Though not a big fan of that packaged pasta and cheese, it is one of my wife’s favorite comfort foods.

My food wondering continued. What about a “Big Mac?” Could the doctor have been recommending a fast food burger? (When younger, I loved McDonald’s flagship burger. The Big Mac debuted, with fanfare and a high calorie count, around the time I started college. If I could scrape together a few extra quarters, I’d always go for the extra all-beef patty and special sauce!)

But we hospice professionals couldn’t have been talking meal deals . . . right?

Ever ignorant, I asked the doctor, “What is a ‘mac?’” Read More →

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