Life Is a Death Sentence

One Door

I suppose some could describe hospice as choosing Door #1 or Door #1 or Door #1?

Hospice is a death sentence.

After all, any doctor that recommends hospice care will say—maybe bluntly, maybe hemming-and-hawing—there is likely six months or less __________.

  • A – To live
  • B – Until death

Isn’t choosing A’s “to live” a glass half-full answer? But don’t both really mean B? With few exceptions, no one leaves hospice care alive. Some joke about “graduating from hospice,” but how many of those jokesters return, sooner or later, to hear the same words: you have six months or less . . .?

I suppose some could describe hospice as choosing Door #1 or Door #1 or Door #1? In other words, a choice with no choice. Or perhaps, clinging to the oft-used justification for the mysteries of God’s ways, if a door closes, then a window will open? Except with hospice care, aren’t all the windows nailed shut?

Isn’t hospice care the worst thing possible when a physician suggests it?

Or do you think this . . . Read More →

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The Phone Call

Man on beach

Now, less than a year after the initial cancer diagnosis, he was alone.

In my work with bereavement at hospice, I call grievers after a loved one’s death. With many of them, I leave messages.

While I repeat certain phrases and information, I have no script. Every message is unique, for that person. Though it infrequently happens, I hope my recorded message might prompt the “bereaved” to consider exploring and using our resources.

When someone answers, the conversations can be brief. Some calls drive me batty because the person could be driving, at work, or hurrying out the door for an appointment. He or she explains, “I can’t talk now.” Since I’m far, far from being a perfect human being, I often silently grumble: Then why’d you even answer? I have a love/hate relationship with cell phones and their ability to be with us anywhere we are.

One of my favorite can’t-talk-now calls was a fellow on the verge of “winning big” at a local Native American casino. I introduced myself while a soundtrack of electronic beeps and crowd noise ebbed and flowed. What was more important, playing the slots or speaking with the guy from hospice? Easy answer, eh?

Whether or not they are gambling or just too busy, we will try to contact them again. Read More →

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Should You Titrate?

Different people

In medicine, as in life, one size does not fit all.

The word titrate sounds like a poorly-named household cleaning product.

Until working in hospice, and hanging around nurses and physicians, I don’t recall hearing or using titrate in a sentence. It might have been mentioned on shows like House, Chicago Med or Grey’s Anatomy, but I was probably more fascinated by the shenanigans in the supply closet between two doctors in lust.

With no medical or chemistry background, I have excellent excuses for my ignorance.

In a patient care meeting, when a nurse asked a doctor about titrating the new medication for a patient, I’d keep a straight face. I’d maybe give a brief neutral nod, and then hoped there wouldn’t be a snap quiz after the coffee break. Fortunately, while ignorance is one of my dominate genes, I’m equally curious about nearly everything! I own bunches of dictionaries and thesauruses! I can search the web! I can talk to a nurse! Read More →

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