Is It Safe?

Hoffman

It won’t be the first thing hospice asks you, but it’s important.

“Is it safe?”

The above was not a query from hospice, but the riveting question posed in the 1976 film Marathon Man. During a grim, crucial scene, Laurence Olivier’s menacing character demanded—as he wielded dental equipment in the worst way—to know if his scheme could be safely accomplished.

Dustin Hoffman’s “innocent man” paid an excruciating price for every hesitation, every uncertainty.

I sometimes thought of the Olivier-Hoffman confrontation when one of the hospice’s social workers announced a patient’s house was “safe.” During the discussion about a new patient entering hospice care, the “safe question” must be asked and answered.

Which is to say . . . Read More →

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Medications Near Midnight

 

different meds

The nurse arrived in my mother’s dimly lit hospital room.

Near midnight, even his soft voice seemed loud. One of the first things he said was, “This won’t hurt.”

He lied. This was in 2013. Seven years after her death, I still remember his false assurances.

The nurse was there to place a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC, or “pick”) into Mom’s upper right arm. My mother been offered Dilaudid—a brand name for hydromorphone, a narcotic comparable to morphine—for pain management. The medication would be housed in a CADD pump (Computerized Ambulatory Drug Delivery) connected to her PICC line. The linked pump and the catheter would give a predetermined, regular amount of medication to ease her physical agony. A “button” could be pressed on the CADD pump for additional dosages.

Are your eyes glazing over with all the medicalese?

Mom’s body was riddled with cancer and the two surgeries undertaken for “comfort” had added complications. As I calmly write this years after her death, I understand why she said “Yes” to that PICC line: she wanted the wrenching pain to end and she was ready to die.

But the nurse, who seemed rightly weary in the near midnight hour when he entered Mom’s room, first caused more pain. Read More →

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Dear Grief: Sorry, I’m Busy Now

Too busy

Your loved one has died and the business of the estate swamps you…

After a long life or an unfairly short one, death barges in.

Death never arrives alone:

  • The bills, sympathy cards, and junk mail pile up like a paper Everest.
  • There are endless follow-up phone calls and half the people don’t call back.
  • You’ve found most documents for the estate, except several are missing key pages with signatures and you’ve looked everywhere, including under the beds.
  • The woman at the funeral home was so kind, but the insurance agency had a confusing phone menu and you still haven’t talked to a real person.
  • The dimwit at the credit card company demanded an official death certificate to close the account even though their web page promised they’d take copies.

Your loved one has died and the business of the estate swamps you. For some, nearly everything is organized because your loved one was a good planner. Folders were labeled. Contact info for insurance and credit card companies were on a spreadsheet. But even with easy-to-find details, “closing the estate” is exhausting. Read More →

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