Stop! Is This a Last Time Moment?

Last times. As a hospice nurse, I think about these moments, sometimes you see them coming, and sometimes you don’t. I went to a continuous care case one evening in an elderly couple’s condo. I spent the night in the bedroom with my patient who looked like a tiny little doll in a big oversized…

The 5 Stages of Grief: Acceptance

Acceptance. The final stage among the 5 stages of grief. Interesting isn’t it? To think that there could be any other stage that would end the grief cycle and allow us to die. At some point, whether it be in that final breath, or weeks before, there comes a time, where one accepts the inevitable…

The 5 Stages of Grief: Depression

Margaret had been at the hospice house a couple days when I first met her. At 81 she had some periods of confusion, but for the most part her mind was pretty sharp. She had originally come in for symptom management, but the doctor was now thinking that she may be entering the active phase…

What is a Good Death Experience?

What is a good death experience? How can the words good and death even be thought of in the same sentence you may wonder? Most people don’t even think about death until it hits close to home. But when death does come sneaking up on you, most just assume it will be the most devastating,…

The 5 Stages of Grief: Anger

As I mentioned in my previous post on denial, there is an accepted pattern in the stages of grieving that the dying and their loved ones will go through as they journey through the dying process. Dr Elisabeth Kubler Ross was the first to describe these 5 stages of grief and labeled them as denial,…

The 5 Stages of Grief: Denial

Dr Elisabeth Kubler Ross was a very interesting woman, and early in her career as a psychiatrist, she decided to take the unheard of approach of asking a dying patient directly about their dying. Conventional wisdom of the day was that you did not tell the person they were dying and that everyone else other…

My Loved One is Dying, Should I Stay or Should I Go?

As a hospice nurse I am frequently asked by family at the end of the day, “Should I stay or should I go?” or ” Call me if anything changes.” When a person is imminent the only change is death. The hard part is that a person can be imminent for many hours or days….

Don’t Tell Dad He’s Dying

I once had a patient’s daughter pull me aside after her father had been admitted to the hospice care center.  “Don’t tell my dad he’s dying. He is too high anxiety, he won’t be able to take it. Seriously, it would kill him.” When I mentioned that my name tag had hospice written on it,…

Acceptance in the Now

I’ve had many interesting conversations with patients over the years, some of whom had rather different backgrounds from me to put it mildly. I remember one man in particular, much taller than me, mid forties, arms covered in gang tattoos, missing teeth, and thin as a rail. “You wouldn’t have liked the old me, Katarina”…

Can the Dying Hear Us?

I remember back when my dad was dying, and at this point unresponsive, to a time when our hospice nurse came to the house for a visit. We were all gathered in my father’s bedroom and watched as the nurse did her physical assessment. Being new at this point, to the whole dying experience, I…