Importance of Hospice Care to Patients and Their Families: Hospice End of Life Experience

CNN recently posted an article about hospice end of life experience titled, “My Faith: What people talk about before they die“. It was written by hospice chaplain, Kerry Egan. In her article she reflects on a professor who asked her, as a young divinity student, about her work as a student chaplain. He asked her a variety of questions centered around whether she had spiritual conversations with the patients she worked with. She responded with “not usually” to a few of his questions.  Needless to say the professor was underwhelmed. He went on to ridicule their conversation during one of his lectures. (Kerry wasn’t called out by name in the story, fortunately.)

Her words and her story got me to thinking. What DO people talk about when they’re dying? What is the hospice end of life experience really like?  I don’t think about my death very much. One, I’m too busy trying to live to worry about what will happen during my final days on earth. And two, with a toddler running about and a husband I adore, I really don’t want to think about leaving them.

Does that sound like some of the patients and families you’ve met? I’m thirty-*mumbling* years old and thinking of my own demise leaves me a bit woozy.

So I grabbed a cup of tea to ease my wooziness and pondered my end-of-life. I’d like to believe, given that I spend so much of my time sharing the hospice “word” that I will elect hospice when the time comes. I do think it will be a time of reflection. I hope that I can look back and say that I did most things right. I like to think I’ll have words of wisdom to impart on my daughter. More than the wisdom I’ve already started to pass on, such as, “Brush your teeth or when you get older you might not have any teeth to brush!” As Kerry described, I think much of what I’ll have to say will be sharing memories. Things I want others to remember, after I’m gone. Many a story will likely begin with “Do you remember when…,” or “I remember…,”  if I’m fortunate to still have my memory. I do think I’ll talk to God, but I believe those will be quiet conversations, not dissimilar to the ones I have with Him today.

With my tea cup empty I now consider our patients and their families. There’s no right or wrong thing to talk about at the hospice end of life experience. I mentioned in a blog the other day… It’s their story. Let them be the star of it. As family members, friends and caregivers we have one job: To listen.