Welcome to Hospice Matters.

I’m glad you found my website.

My name is Larry Patten.

  • Are you curious about hospice?
  • Will you, or a loved one, soon consider hospice care?
  • In your grieving, are you crying too much, or not enough?
  • Would you rather avoid talking about death, except right now . . .
Photo on 10-10-13 at 6.35 PM

Questions are endless and the uncertainties can be overwhelming.

You’re not alone if death seems unsettling. And you are not alone if someone you love is dying. In its 2012 findings, the National Hospice Care and Palliative Organization (NHCPO) reported that 2,513,000 people died in the United States in 2011. 44.6% of those—or 1,059,000—died while in the care of a hospice.

I am not an expert. I have no medical training. My hospice work has been limited to two hospices and I don’t represent their views or the views of hospice in general. By background I’m a United Methodist pastor. Like clergy in all the various faith traditions, I’ve been in hospitals with individuals and families facing tough decisions, visited the dying, and supported the grieving. In the late 1990s, I served as a hospice chaplain. Currently I work in bereavement.

My parents, about 1949.
My parents, about 1949.

My father died in 2012. For years, he and my family struggled with his dementia. When it was time to consider hospice, one hospice concluded he wasn’t “ready” for the benefits. Another hospice evaluated Dad and deemed him appropriate. His last breath came four months later.

Unlike Dad’s slow dying, Mom died weeks after her stage 4 cancer diagnosis in 2013. Following Mom’s abrupt and difficult surgeries, my sisters and I contacted a hospice. We had a miserable experience with the nurse who came to the hospital. As with Dad, we asked another hospice to visit. The nurse from the second hospice was empathetic and informative. She helped us determine—given the rapid deterioration of Mom’s condition and with her health insurance options—that hospice wasn’t the only choice. Mom never entered hospice care and died quickly. With our mother, hospice’s involvement was limited to advice from a compassionate nurse. But it was crucial advice.

My experience will be like yours, and it won’t be like yours. Perhaps my personal history and professional background will help your decisions.

It’s easy to ignore all things related to dying, death, and grief . . . but an open-minded discussion about them is important for family and friends. We may joke about Benjamin Franklin’s death and taxes comments—the two things no one avoids—but I think the brilliant politician and inventor was wrong. I’ll betcha some have escaped paying taxes. However, with death . . .

My goal is for Hospice Matters is to provide information and encouragement. I hope you’ll be able to ask doctors and nurses better questions, and to communicate more openly about dying, death, and grieving with your loved ones.

I look forward to your comments. If you want to contact me, use larry (at) larrypatten (dot) com.

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