Archive for Dying

Do You Want to Die?

From HBO’s Band of Brothers

In the opening moments of our weekly hospice team meetings we report on recent patient deaths. How is the family doing? Who was with the person when she died? Was the mortuary and physician informed of his death? If a patient fell during her hospice stay, was the coroner contacted (even the most benign of stumbles requires legal notification)? Did she have a peaceful death? The final words on the medical chart summarizing patients’ deaths are intentionally brief and accurate, not much longer than this paragraph.

As we finished the report on a patient, a nurse spontaneously added, “She died quickly, which is what she wanted because she didn’t want a long, drawn-out death.”

The nurse’s final comment wasn’t necessary for the sparse report. I recollect the patient died comfortably, with family at the bedside. All went as well as possible. But I caught myself wondering: Don’t we all hope to die quickly?

Would anyone want to have a “long, drawn-out death?”

Indeed, who wants to die? I don’t. 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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12 Suggestions for Talking to Kids about Death

A patient asked his hospice nurse, “How can I tell my kid that I’m dying?”

And the nurse later asked me.

It’s a scary question for parents and grandparents when they enter hospice care and have “six months or less to live.”

Before attempting answers, there are several good reasons to question my responses.

First, I don’t have children. I’ll never tell my own kid that I am dying. Second, I’m not an expert, but do have experience. A minister, I’ve supported families during the time of dying and grieving. Right now, in hospice, I work in bereavement support.

Now you’re aware of my advice-giver flaws! However, with conversations involving parents, kids, and dying, being open about your weaknesses (and not forgetting your strengths) is important. Read More →

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