A reader who follows my blog wrote to tell me her heart was breaking because she’d just put her significant other into Hospice care. I’ve thought about her all day yesterday, and have come to the conclusion that the only thing worse than putting loved ones in Hospice is NOT putting them in Hospice.
A few years ago our 42-year-old nephew was dying with cancer. He’d been recently divorced, so his parents became his full-time caregivers. When it was evident that Steve was not going to recover, they contacted their local Hospice. When Steve’s doctor got the call from Hospice, he stormed into Steve’s hospital room and said, “So you’re giving up on me? You’re ready to die?”
Our nephew said, “I don’t know what you mean.” The doctor explained that he’d gotten a call from Hospice. When Steve’s parents walked into his room later that day, he accused them of wanting him to hurry up and die so they could get on with their lives. Stunned, they denied making the call, and everyone, including Steve’s teenaged children, pretended that he was going to get better until he took his last breath.
The entire family missed the opportunity to talk openly and to share how much they loved him and would miss him. Steve missed the opportunity to tell his children what he admired in them and what he hoped for their futures. There was no closure and no peace at the end, and the grief process for the entire family has been very long and very painful.
Tomorrow I’ll write about my friend Grace who had a completely very different end-of-life experience. In the meantime, I hope you will listen to an interview with Dr. Atul Gawande about his new book, “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters at the End”. Here’s the link: http://www.opb.org/radio/programs/thinkoutloud/segment/atul-gawande-talks-about-being-mortal/
I would strongly suggest listening to it with your loved one. It could open the door to some very meaningful conversations that will help both of you face the end with a heart full of love and peace rather than panic and fear.