Archive for Questions – Page 2

Hospice is Far from Perfect

My finger reached for the first number to press on the phone’s keypad.

I hesitated. I silently prayed.

Since starting at my hospice job in 2012, I’ve averaged maybe fifty weekly bereavement phone calls, which means about 200 families per month. You can do the math . . . I’ve logged considerable phone time over the years! Some calls occur mere days after patients have died. Others are close to the one-year anniversary of the parent or child or spouse’s death. Because of my access to confidential patient information, and talking with the chaplains, social workers and nurses, I know details about a patient’s dying and the family’s reactions. In a few moments at a computer, I’ll read about conflicts between siblings, a spouse’s fears and—if I choose to scrutinize the medical charts—even what happened on the twelfth visit by the home health aide. Read More →

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I Hope You Don’t Feel Like You’re a Burden?

Whenever I entered a patient’s home as a hospice chaplain, much seemed the same. The patient might be rich or poor, young or old, but they were invariably surrounded by the benchmarks of a life-threatening illness: hospital beds, oxygen tanks, commodes, medication bottles.

Still, with eyes and heart open, I knew everyone, and ever situation, was unique.

How can one patient, facing death, glow with kindness? How can another, also confronted by death, appear mired in bitterness? Of course, it’s like that with everyone, in all seasons and places. One child laughs, another child sulks. One employee bounces through the Monday morning office door, while the next slouches in with a grim, don’t-tread-on-me expression. Voices and fingerprints and more confirm that we are the lonely or lovely stars of our one-person road show.

And so, I sit beside a patient’s hospital bed. Read More →

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Don’t Let the What-ifs Hijack Your Grief

What-if questions haunt us. After a loved one’s death, the what-ifs can feel like a vice squeezing our hearts. But they finally ease their grip as the clock keeps spinning and the calendar pages turn.

What if the what-ifs keep troubling us?

They can randomly and relentless disturb us, like odd noises jarring us awake in the depths of night. What if . . .

  • he’d quit smoking years before?
  • she had gone to the oncologist earlier?
  • they hadn’t given that last dose of morphine?
  • you hadn’t flirted with the passenger on the plane?
  • you’d said, “I love you” . . . instead of “Leave me alone?”
  • the family had attended church (or temple, synagogue, or…) more often?

Are what-ifs like an airborne virus? Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines disease as:

“a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.” [Underlining is mine.] Read More →

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