Archive for Fears – Page 2

Drugs, Doses, Dread & Delivery Options

pills

Around breakfast time, I usually shake out several pills into the palm of my hand . . .

The nurse arrived and sat beside my mother in the dimly lit hospital room.

One of the first things he said was, “This won’t hurt.”

He lied.

He was there to place a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC, or “pick”) into Mom’s upper right arm. She’d been offered Dilaudid—a brand name for hydromorphone, a narcotic stronger than morphine—for pain management. The medication would be housed in a CADD pump (Computerized Ambulatory Drug Delivery) connected to her PICC line. The linked pump and the catheter would give a predetermined, regular amount of medication to ease her physical agony. A “button” could be pressed on the CADD pump for additional dosages.

Are your eyes glazing over with all the medicalese?

Mom’s body was riddled with cancer and the two surgeries undertaken to “relieve” discomfort had added complications. As I calmly write this three years after her death, I understand why she said “Yes” to that PICC line: she wanted the wrenching pain to end and she was ready to die.

But the nurse, who seemed rightly weary in the near midnight hour when he entered Mom’s room, first caused more pain.

He swabbed her arm with disinfectant and inserted a needle.

She grimaced.

I held her left hand. Watching her tore my heart apart. Read More →

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Remove Your Hospice Nametag!

no-nameAn admitting nurse from hospice meets with a family in the eldest daughter’s home. He is giving information and answering questions. Three of the four siblings occupy chairs in different parts of the living room. They listen to the nurse while thumbing through hospice pamphlets and glancing at forms that require signatures.

Only a handful of steps away in the “spare bedroom,” the fourth sibling—the youngest brother—sits with their father.

The father is dying.

(Disclaimer.)

The bedroom will likely be the final place the father lives after a long life of military service, marriage, career, raising kids, retirement, and burying his wife a few years before. From long-ago conversations, his adult children know that he “can’t stomach those damn hospitals” and will “die on the streets before being dragged into a hospital.” Since he can no longer safely be alone in his apartment, the siblings are honoring his hatred of hospitals by caring for him in the eldest daughter’s home.

One of the kids, a fifty-something community college administrator, clears her throat and says, “We don’t want our father to know you’re from hospice.” She gestures toward the nurse’s nametag, dangling around his neck on a blood red cloth lanyard. “Could you take your nametag off before you see him? And we also don’t want any of your staff to wear their tags.

No one speaks. The muffled sound of snoring is heard from the spare bedroom. Read More →

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I’m (not) Listening…

From* 2012's "The Descendants"

From* 2012’s “The Descendants”

It’s nearly impossible to hear and retain information about hospice care when a loved one enters into his or her final stages of life. Whether there’s a years-long struggle with heart disease or a cancer diagnosis and weeks to live, most have never considered hospice’s options and limits.

Of course they haven’t! But then they you have to . . .

And so, with honest conversations and tenderness, a family decides hospice is the best choice.

Or, staggered by panic and desperate to get a loved one out of the hospital, hospice seems like the awful but only possibility.

Regardless of how calm or frantic the decision-makers are, even the simplest explanations about hospice can seem like a foreign language. There will be assumptions and selective listening.

  • Hospice said a nurse would be here all the time!
  • I thought all the medications were free!
  • Aren’t there pills to make the pain vanish?
  • Hospice said Dad would sleep and not feel anything. But now he’s awake and agitated.
  • Mom can handle the pain and wanted to be alert for the grandkids. But now she’s drowsy.
  • My husband was told he could die at home. But now he can’t?
  • My sister was told she would not die at home. But now she will?

Read More →

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