Archive for Visiting the Dying

Hospice’s Two for One

two for oneBack when working as a hospice chaplain, one of the newer social worker suggested that we visit together. We shared various patients as part of their hospice “team.” I recall that two of those patients lived a long and winding drive from our office. Carpooling was a good use of resources. Additionally, the families wouldn’t be interrupted by multiple phone calls from multiple staff trying to schedule multiple visits.

Everyone loves more phones calls and visits, right?

On the way there, I said, “You know, this does defeat part of our impact.”

“What do you mean?” the social worker asked.

“We won’t get much of a chance for one-on-one encounters. A lot of what we do is based on being with the patient or family member. Having another person around changes that.”

“Oh,” was mostly what she replied. She was young. She was new. On we drove, excellent stewards of hospice resources. Read More →

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He Was Angry!

According to the nurse, he was angry.

According to the chaplain, he was angry.

According to the social worker, he was angry.

These three hospice colleagues separately visited the same patient and husband over the course of several days. While each met with the patient for different reasons—from the nurse determining the most appropriate medications for the patient’s needs to the social worker assisting with Medicare forms—they all experienced the wrath of a husband.

His wife had entered hospice care a few days before. Her cancer and Alzheimer’s had combined to wear her, and her husband, down. They dreaded the next midnight run to the emergency room or another lengthy stay in the hospital. Her oncologist had announced chemo or radiation therapies would no longer work. The neurologist, once upbeat about drug trials for her dementia, had exhausted all options as her disease slowly worsened. Many of the doctors and nurses they’d seen in recent weeks had mentioned hospice.

And so, his wife became a hospice patient. Read More →

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To See What Matters

When Senator John McCain announced his cancer was glioblastoma in 2017, I knew his death would come quickly. It is a brutal cancer.

And I suspected, based on his public persona—though we never know what others are truly like—that the former prisoner of war would make the most of his living until he died. In his book, Character is Destiny, McCain wrote,

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.”

The Arizona senator’s death in this last week transported me to a day in hospice when I visited three patients, back-to-back-to-back, and observed glimpses of people who tried to “beautify all things.” Read More →

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