As a palliative care nurse practitioner, I get an opportunity to meet a variety of patients that are at differing stages of their lives. A new patient, who I’ll call Caroline, recently taught me that we should never ever make up our plan of care before we meet the person.
What I read about Caroline made me think I was about to meet somebody who was dying.
When my wife Michelle was sick and dying, she would often tell me of her fears that everyone would forget her. That she would become a distant memory. That nobody would speak of her anymore. That it would be like she never existed.
Nope. Not going to happen. Not on my watch. Not now. Not ever.
As the Jewish holiday of Shavuot approaches, (at sundown on May 30 through nightfall on June 1), I’m reminded of a hospice patient that I had the honor of studying Torah with during our visits together over a year’s time.
The patient, whom I’ll call Esther, had moved from Philadelphia to Chicago to be closer to her family at the end of her life. She had recently lost her husband, her tight knit Torah study group, and her social network in Philadelphia.
Hospice can be a very scary and ominous word to many people. As a hospice admissions nurse, I see the fear, indecision, vulnerability, confusion and despair firsthand.
Some patients I meet have a newly diagnosed terminal disease, and others suffer from a long-protracted disease that is now in the last stages. More often than not, the patient is ready to stop treatments and focus on pain and symptom management. They want to remain at home in safe, warm and familiar surroundings, rather than the grueling routine of a hospital or skilled nursing facility with endless doctor visit cycles.