Archive for Sudden Death

Tormented by a Quick Death

I recently talked to a man who received a call from his eldest brother. Of course, it was late at night . . .

I recently talked to a man who received a call from his eldest brother. Of course, it was late at night . . .

A number of months ago, I wrote about deaths that linger.

What about a loved one who dies quickly? Is that different?

I don’t mean sudden, traumatic deaths such as fatal accidents, natural disasters like the recent earthquake in Italy, or from bullets in war zones (and sadly in places like San Bernardino or Orlando or . . .). What about the 30% of deaths in hospice that occur within seven days? And within those national averages, some are in hospice for barely 24 hours. Being with a hospice for a week or less is unsettling. But when the care—and the death—all occur before the next day’s sunset, the unsettledness can become a hurricane of raw emotions, abrupt decisions, and instant regrets.

Hospice professionals know that when a loved one dies that quickly, most of the staff assigned to the patient and family won’t meet them. No one, other than nurses scrambling to manage the most urgent needs, had time to physically be with the patient who went from dying to dead in a handful of hours. A few days later, a chaplain or social worker will call to offer condolences . . . but she or he seems a stranger. More hospice staff will support you during your time of grief, but (again) they will be voices on a phone or letters in the mail.

Hospice professionals also know that many sudden deaths can be explained because of the inevitable, cruel progression of particular illnesses. But some can’t be explained. Read More →

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A Perinatal Story

baby and momI was uncertain of what “perinatal” meant.

Though I’ve been colleagues for several years with the Angel Babies counselors at the hospice where I work, I was, well . . . ignorant.

[Read Disclaimer here.]

In my feeble defense, I’m not directly involved with the Angel Babies program. I’m also not a medical expert, and even “easy” terminology stumps me. Additionally, my wife and I don’t have children.

There were a series of unremarkable events—a phone call, a conversation, a few words on a webpage—that led me to learn “perinatal” referred to the before and after time period around the birth of a child. Here’s the sentence from the webpage that I’m sure I’d read before and had—like humans often do—overlooked the words I didn’t understand: Read More →

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We Didn’t Expect Her To Die So Soon!

Take advantage of the 100% chance of sharing time with your loved one . . . right now

Take advantage of the 100% chance of sharing time with your loved one . . . right now

You know your father is dying. After all, he’s in his eighth decade of life and his Alzheimer’s has caused him to become a “sundowner,” far too awake at night, sleeping during the day.

You know your wife is dying. Even if you avoid the subject, you were both in the oncologist’s office when the worst news was shared.

You know your ________ is dying. After all, she (or he) is being cared for by hospice.

Hospice is for those with six months or less to live. Six months seems brief, but it represents two season’s worth of togetherness, a summer and an autumn or a winter and a spring. It’s good to have six months so the family and friends living in another state have a chance to visit. Six months means you can settle into routines. Six months means you can plan for “last” events and share memories.

Six months rarely happens. Nearly 15% of patients die within 24 hours of entering hospice care. Over a third (34.5%) will die before the first week concludes. The average length of care from hospice (2013 data) is 18 days. However, in the arena of statistics and odds, there are 11.5% of the over one million patients annually served by hospice that live for six months (or even longer).

Most of us imagine we’ll “beat the odds.” Won’t our loved one be in that 11.5%?

We hope so. We pray so. We want more time.

Death surprises us. Read More →

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