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…

Do You Get It Now?

Many years ago as I sat through my first hospice orientation, I participated in an activity that was aimed at enlightening us to the fact that we were all entering our hospice patient’s lives at a time when the world as they knew it was becoming smaller and smaller. The exercise was supposed to get…

Making the Most of Each Visit

I met the greatest family one time when their mother had come to the hospice house for a brief stay to manage some pain issues she was having. Their mom had been diagnosed with cancer two months earlier and given six months to live. At the time I met her she was doing well, able…

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

Don’t be surprised if one afternoon or evening you suddenly find yourself sitting in your local ER waiting room. You’re most likely there because you took a tumble at home and injured yourself. X-rays will tell whether that ankle, wrist or ribs are fractured. Your frailty has snuck up on you. Without thinking you reach…

Practical Tips for Caregiving at Home

Many caregivers are overwhelmed with the idea of caring for someone at home. They see their loved one becoming weaker and more dependent and although their heart is willing, their bodies worry about the day after day physical aspects of providing care. Here are some practical tips on how to make daily life a bit…

Withholding Pain Medication for Fear of Addiction

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer years ago, both he and my mother were very concerned about his becoming addicted to the pain medications he was being given. After all, morphine and dilaudid are very scary words. My dad got over his fear sooner than my mother when he felt the pain relief he…

When a Person Becomes Unresponsive

Eventually there always comes a time when the terminally ill person becomes unresponsive. I’m reminded of one man who had been awake when I came into his room at the start of my shift. He was sleeping throughout most of each day but would open his eyes upon hearing a voice or by the touch…

Clearing Up Past Hurts, Does it Take Dying to Make Amends?

Every family has their own dysfunction. I have yet to meet the family, including my own, which doesn’t have issues amongst the group from time to time. Some things are minor, and some are taken to the extreme. Sometimes, for good reason, sometimes for bizarre reasons, and sometimes for reasons no one really remembers anymore….

How Will You Choose to Die?

There will come a time after being diagnosed with a terminal illness that your doctor will ask whether it is your wish to have a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR). By signing a DNR you acknowledge that in the event that your heart stops beating, no life saving measures, such as CPR will be performed….

What if You Didn’t Choose a Healthcare Surrogate?

Choosing a Healthcare Surrogate (HCS) is imperative and should be done as early on as possible. Let me explain why. A HCS is going to be your voice making decisions about you if, and only when, you are unable to let others know what you want. I have had patients in situations where a sibling…