Archive for Fears

The Evil Twins that Stalk Hospice

Shining Twins

The twins from 1980’s The Shining

Like evil twins in a horror movie, fear and ignorance stalk those in hospice care.

This happened: [Disclaimer]

A hospice nurse described one of her patients—let’s say this was a mother of several adult children and also a wife of four plus decades—who lay dying in a rented hospital bed in the living room. Most of the family had gathered at the home. Most talked with their loved one or did chores like cleaning the bathroom or preparing meals. But one family member—let’s say it was the oldest daughter—arrived, but never entered the living room. Never offered to help. This daughter surveyed the activity around the metal-framed bed from the entryway, and then hurried down a hallway, away from her family, away from her mother.

Was she afraid of death? Read More →

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Please Don’t Wear Your Hospice Nametags

It feels odd when the hospice staff is asked to NOT wear nametags on home visits.

A spouse or grandparent nears death, but the family doesn’t want the person to know she or he is dying. And so, a scheme unfolds. Perhaps telltale mail is hidden or discarded. If there are any family conversations about dying or death—or other “bad” words—incomplete sentences become the norm if the “wrong” person enters the room. Friends join the hush-hush efforts, though the more talkative or gossipy ones may be left out of any “information loop.”

Often a doctor that’s concluded there’s no longer the possibility of a cure joins the conspiracy. Whether it’s the inevitable health complications of aging or an opportunistic, grim cancer, the physicians and nurses that were tending to the person’s needs remain silent about the prognosis. (Or at least, silent enough.)

And so, when a hospice admitting nurse knocks on the front door (because the person’s physician has formally requested hospice) and a family member opens the door (he or she has likely been peering through windows, anxiously awaiting the visit), the nurse is first greeted with . . . Read More →

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In Grief, Everything Changes

During a conversation this week* with a husband whose sixty-something wife had died from cancer, the surviving spouse said, “I thought I was prepared for her death, but nothing prepared me for my feelings now.”

Several of his relatives had experienced their spouses’ deaths. Each offered advice and support and he appreciated it. So far, it hadn’t helped.

The hospice staff serving his wife had honestly discussed her dying. They’d also gently suggested reactions he might have after her death. Everything said was thoughtful and kind. So far, it hadn’t helped.

[Disclaimer.]

He’d bought and read recommended books on grief while attending to his wife’s changing needs as she neared death. After all, the two of them had always been planners. He sought to be ready for the inevitable. So far, it hadn’t helped.

Grief is unique . . . for every single one of us.

No one can prepare for how to handle (and not handle) grief.

Unavoidably and inevitably, we will all grieve.

In another conversation, I called* a griever about six weeks after her spouse’s death. It was the second time I’d phoned, but—a month before—I’d only been able to leave a supportive message. Now she answered. Read More →

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