Archive for Emotions

Hey, Am I in Heaven?

nurses

Vintage photo, Navy nurses with patient around 1960.

In the early morning, before the hospice team meeting began and the patient care reports became formal, two nurses discussed a new 23-year-old patient.

When admitted into our hospice, this young patient had a Palliative Performance Scale (PPS) score of 60%. Her PPS* percentage meant she could easily get around her home and required minimal assistance for most daily activities. Compared to many patients, she was remarkably independent.

Less than two days later, she was in crisis.

Pain had suddenly wracked her body, and it took hours of intensive work for nurses to get her comfortable. She was in her twenties. She was strong. Her cancer was terrifying, but if—the nurses hoped—she could settle down, have her pain reduced, and get some sleep, then maybe . . .

She died.

How could someone active, and able to talk and share and wonder what the next meal or who the next visitor might be, die so quickly? The family and hospice staff that cared for the vibrant young woman was crushed. Read More →

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Is STUBBORN a Diagnosis in Hospice Care?

ornery

Humans are loving, and yet we can be hateful . . .

Humans are helpful, but we are also irksome . . .

Humans can keep learning, though we resist change . . .

In Joan Halifax’s Being With Dying, she related this account:

World religions scholar Huston Smith once told the story of a well-known psychologist, an ornery old man close to death. One morning, as he was struggling to get to the toilet, a nurse tried to help him. He snapped back at her, “I can do it myself!” Then he dropped to the floor dead.

Smith used this story to illustrate just how defensive about needing help we are often are. He called this reaction ‘the porcupine effect.’

I agree with Smith’s “porcupine effect,” or in other words: Don’t touch me! Over the years of working with those close to death (and those caring for them) I have frequently heard a variation of the phrase: how you live is how you die. That may not be as true when death happens because of a car accident or an earthquake, but still . . . Read More →

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How Ornery are You?

the old Up guy

The ornery old man from Pixar’s 2009 film Up.

Humans can be remarkably empathetic and compassionate.

And we can also be, especially when facing the toughest of times, so darn ornery. In Joan Halifax’s Being with Dying, she wrote,

World religions scholar Huston Smith once told the story of a well-known psychologist, an ornery old man close to death. One morning, as he was struggling to get to the toilet, a nurse tried to help him. He snapped back at her, “I can do it myself!” Then he dropped to the floor dead. Smith used this story to illustrate just how defensive about needing help we are often are. He called this reaction ‘the porcupine effect.’

I agree with Smith’s “porcupine effect,” or . . . don’t touch me! Over the years of working with those close to death (and those caring for them) I have frequently heard a variation of the phrase: how you live is how you die. That may not be as true when death happens because of a car accident or an earthquake, but still . . .

During life, some are ornery like Smith’s “well-known psychologist,” and that’s exactly what they are like as they approach death. Read More →

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