I am a Hospice RN, and have been for the last 8 years, and before that I was in the hospital. I really enjoyed listening to the program on NPR. I often will have a patient who has no children to help make the last journey of their life easier to cope with. I also have patients whose children live in other parts of the country and cannot, or do not, visit very often. It is almost "out of sight, out of mind". Sometimes the distant child with exchange numerous phone calls to a nursing home, the Doctor or the Hospice nurse (if they are lucky enough to have one), trying to monitor and understand from a distance. I've been privy to these updates which can be to a Dr. who hasn't had eyes or hands on the patient in quite a while. Or to a nursing home nurse who is trying to make everything sound "just fine". Or when a patient has a decline or change in condition,and so the nursing home sends for the ambulance and off to ER the patient goes, then they call the distant family. Everyone needs an advocate during the final transition of life.
I see people hospitalized who are so obviously in the dying process, very aged and pretty frail. They are bolstered, invaded and cajoled to stay a while longer. Then still frail they are sent back to be cared for and "rehabilitated". I admit the once in a while the thought crosses my mind: "What could this person have done that was so horrible in the past, that the child/family would insist on keeping him/her so tortured now?"
It is amazing to me that we fight against the inevitable so hard. Being a Judeo-Christian based society one would think we would embrace the concept of eternal life and when life has little or no quality left, chose to not seek treatment and just let nature take over. I must admit I often think that if the family or patient had to take on more of the cost for the care, we would have stronger palliative and hospice programs in this country. I have seen some sad and distressing situations when family cannot or will not let go, and so, force their "loved" one to be subjected to test after test, treatment after treatment just to sustain a body whose mind has been ravaged and whose body tormented.
Then again I see the change that takes place in the family's heart and mind as they are taught to see the signs of distress, pain and hopelessness. One of the most fulfilling parts of my job is to help them become aware of the suffering and poor quality of life that the patient is going through so they can come to peace that the kindest action is comfort care and sharing of their love with the patient. Insuring the most peaceful death possible is what makes me get up in the morning and face some sad days.
I will look for your book and thank you for trying to help us face up to the facts of life, and of death
Jubi Maggiore, RN
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