Archive for Medicalese

Facts (and Lies) On Death Certificates

causes of death How about a few thoughts on one of the most (least) popular items on your after-death to-do list?

Death certificates are among the most dismal of reading materials. But they are essential for the “business” after a loved one’s death. Since it takes time to order and acquire certificates, it’s better to purchase multiple copies. Tucking several extras into a file is likely better than scrambling to request more in the future.

On a practical note, the mortuary will probably handle the death certificate. Depending on the county, prices for certificates run the gamut from cheap to are-you-kidding! expensive. In the United States, official copies are obtained from a county clerk’s office*.

Insurance companies, banks, and similar institutions requiring proof of death frequently want the legal certificate issued with the county’s seal. However, with my parents’ estate, the companies that requested an official certificate versus those only needing a copy were never predictable. Read More →

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Hospice and the Unknown

UnknownOn the weekly list of hospice patients and their myriad illnesses, one disease seemed to glare back at me: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

What was it? I’d never heard or read about this illness.

Later, I found this description from the Cleveland Clinic’s website:

In IPF, lung tissue becomes scarred and changes the lung’s ability to function normally. The scarring typically starts at the edges of the lungs and advances towards the center of the lungs. Typically, mild scarring occurs first, but over months to years, the normal lung tissue is replaced by more heavily scarred lung tissue, which makes it difficult to breathe and deliver needed oxygen to the body. Unfortunately, IPF is a disabling disease without a known cure and with few treatment options. The cause of IPF is unknown . . . [Italics added by me.]

After reading, I took a deep breath.

Lungs!

Air!

Life! Read More →

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Gas Exchange?

Embarrassment detours us away from knowledge. Assumptions interfere with understanding. Ignorance leads to poor decisions. And so, let’s exchange some thoughts about . . .

Gas?

I thought about these three—embarrassment, assumptions, ignorance—when I finally spent a few moments learning about a health concern that has been frequently referenced during my hospice’s weekly patient care meetings.

While reviewing patients, all of them nearing death, we mention odd words like cachexia and ascites. I eventually learned what those meant. We have discussions with health care medicalese like POLST, PRN, and SOB. The meaning behind those acronyms became second nature to me. I also didn’t have to ask a nurse or do a web search for “anticipatory grief” or a Foley catheter. There were some things I already knew!

Years ago, while attending those initial weekly meetings (officially dubbed IDGs, or InterDisciplinary Groups), I recall hearing the term “gas exchange.”

Gas exchange?

Really? Read More →

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