Archive for Talking About Dying – Page 2

A Hospice Minute

stopwatchGotta minute?

In 2015, the life expectancy for an “average” American was 78 years. Simple multiplication means that the annual total of 525,600 minutes accumulates to 40,996,800 lifetime minutes.

In a minute, everything can change.

In hospice, every moment is precious.

How many minutes are wasted on worries that prove meaningless, or speaking meaningless (but hurtful) words we regret, or regretting decisions that meant there was less time with loved ones?

How many singular, wonderful moments become like doors into a rooms decorated with experiences that will be treasured for the remainder of life? Read More →

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Start Talking Now (Please)

eoloa-mapCertain hospice-related subjects seem easy to write about. For me, California’s End of Life Option Act (EOLOA) isn’t one of those easy topics.

In June 2016, the EOLOA became law. I wrote about it then.

The EOLOA allows dying patients to take medication to end their life. Two doctors must examine that adult patient (18 years of age and older), with both agreeing she or he has an illness that will lead to death in six months or less. The EOLOA has extensive steps the patient is personally responsible for taking. Those steps include meeting with doctors, completing forms, and drinking the medicine. The process is intentionally complicated.

  1. Since that day in June, I think people are committing suicide.
  2. Since that day in June, I think doctors are murdering their patients.
  3. Since that day in June, I think there’s another option for a dignified death.

Which of the above statements would you make?

I suspect a majority of Californians—or anyone where a “right to die” law permits a medically assisted death—would need a fourth choice for a truthful answer:

  1. Since that day in June, like always, I just do my best to get through the week.

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.


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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