Archive for Hospice

Time to Walk Into the Sunset

last musing
The final walk into the sunset…

Hospice means the end of the line. It’s when someone raises the white flag of surrender, tosses in the towel to declare it’s over, takes the final walk into the sunset.

Which is not true about hospice care!

Except, for me, it is true.

This will be my last weekly Hospice Matters post.

Back in 1989, I had my first hospice encounter with a farm family in Wisconsin. A husband—also a father and grandfather—was dying. I spent time visiting him and his family while they were supported by a local hospice agency. About a month before Christmas, a member of the church I then served asked me to meet with his dying neighbor. My church member and the dying man were dairy farmers, quiet men who had known each other since they were knee high to a grasshopper. I was glad for the opportunity to add to the family’s support. In the years that followed, a few of my sermon stories came from those yuletide trips to their farm. I have also written about the experience.

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What John Kennedy Said!

Kennedy speech

In this political season*, I recall President John Kennedy’s familiar, famous line from his inaugural: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

What about this version:

Ask not what your hospice can do for you, but ask what you can do for your hospice.

Now, wait just a New York minute . . .

Isn’t hospice supposed to do it all for you, as patient, as caregiver? Most hospice patients have spent a lifetime paying for Medicare. The nurses and other support staff on the hospice “team” are paid for, right? The medications for the terminal illness are covered in the hospice benefit, right? The equipment brought to your home—hospital-style bed, commode, oxygen, and more—are part of the deal, right?

Why should a caregiver or patient ask, What can I do for hospice?

What a crock!

Now that I’ve irked you, let me try to explain by briefly focusing on my ABCs of hospice care.

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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 . . .

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