Archive for Patient’s Wishes

Christmas Promise

On a long-ago Christmas Eve, I did my last visit to a patient as a hospice chaplain.

I was honoring a promise.

All I did was hold a hand in a dark bedroom while storm clouds trudged across the night sky. In the nearby houses, seasonal lights flickered in the rain, inflatable Santas and snowmen waved their greetings, and outdoor ornaments sparkled as the gusting wind teased them.

In the patient’s room, it was quiet.

In the patient’s room, she now mostly slept.

I’d already started working as a church’s “new minister.” It had been a tough decision to leave hospice—an intimate ministry—for a mid-sized church with hundreds of members, a sprawling budget, and endless obligations. So many decisions are a combination of guesses, selfish and selfless reasons, and trying to do the right thing at the right time of life. I didn’t know then (and I don’t know now all these years later) if it was the best choice . . . but it was my faithful risk to say “yes” to serve a congregation.

Some of those “endless obligations” during the first days of church work were the Christmas Eve services. There I would preach. There I’d read the ancient stories of Jesus’ birth. There I’d seek to connect an old, familiar tale to the daily hurts and hopes of modern folks. There I’d help a congregation light candles and proclaim the “light of the world.” Read More →

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Where Do You Want to be Buried?

Where Dad is buried.

Where Dad and Mom were buried.

Will it be a slender plot of earth in a cemetery? Or ashes scattered?

My father-in-law’s ashes are buried under a mature shade tree in a church retreat center. Before those acres were developed for future kids and adults, he had been one of the key people on a committee to walk the property and recommend its purchase. Visiting his “final resting place” often means joining others who are playing together, strengthening their faith, and having a darn good time away from home for a week at camp.

Where do you want to be buried?

A member in a Wisconsin congregation left explicit directions about burial in the family plot at a tiny cemetery out in the country. He wanted a brief graveside service. And he’d begged his family: get me in the ground as soon as possible. He died in a January. As his pastor, I recall we delayed the service for several cold, cold moments because of a recent storm. The backhoe had struggled to break through the new snow and frozen ground to dig the grave. But he got his wish.

Where do you want to be buried? Read More →

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Hospice and 86 Bucks

blog-patient-doctor-communicationWhat is 30 minutes of your time worth?

For a physician meeting a patient covered by Medicare, that half-hour may be worth $86.00 in reimbursements.

Eighty-six bucks. For what?

Something remarkable is now available as a Medicare benefit. Based on guidelines approved in 2015, a person covered by Medicare can have a reimbursable conversation with their doctor about “advanced care planning,” which could include hospice. This became official in January 2016.

About seven years ago, this $86 physician-patient chat was lambasted as a “death panel,” with a faceless, faithless government discerning who’d die and who’d live. In August of 2009, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin famously (or infamously) warned,

Seniors and the disabled “will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care.”

Seven years after the “death panel” headlines (or nonsense, depending on your view of Ms. Palin’s fears), what will the $86 get you? Read More →

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