Archive for Doctors

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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The Best Time to Consider Hospice is ______

When is the right time to ask about hospice?

Isn’t that the hardest of questions? For a potential hospice patient, the “right” or “best” time answer seems like a grim brew of unsettling and unfair choices.

Some would prefer their doctors provide the answer. Though there are exceptions, most doctors have spent scant time in training about “end of life” concerns. The lengthy education for a medical degree doesn’t leave much room in the schedule for learning about the dying and death of patients. Doctors, regardless of her or his specialty, are oriented toward healings, hopes, cures, and the next best option to try. It’s nearly impossible for physicians to view hospice as anything other than “giving up.” Who wants a doctor that will “give up” on you?

There are patients that secretly—or not so secretly—want a family member to make decisions about hospice. Do you truly want the people who blindly love you, who want you to “live forever,” and who frequently don’t understand the medical situation (with its strange terminology and complex treatments) to make your decisions? It’s nearly impossible for many family and friends to view hospice as anything other than a personal version of the “end of the world.” In presidential politics, we laugh about (and are deadly serious about) which candidate we want in the Oval Office in the awful event of nuclear war. Who, in any family, wants to trigger the “apocalypse” for a loved one?

But I will give you an answer. Read More →

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