Hospice Patient Experiences: Every Hospice Patient Has a Story.

When a patient and family are facing a terminal diagnosis there are so many feelings and thoughts that they face: questions, concerns, sadness, anger, fear.  It takes a special person, or team, to help patients and families on their end-of-life journey. It would be remiss to think that all healthcare professionals are comfortable with, and capable of, handling some of the emotional needs of patients and families. I’m an optimist. I believe that it’s due to an understanding of how to do so, not a lack of desire to do so.

We need to keep in mind that each patient owns their story. Their life story. Their death story. It’s important for us to know, as those caring for patients and families, how they see their story progressing. If we don’t hear them, we don’t know how to appropriately help them.  We need to keep an open mind, free of expectations and judgment. This lends itself to helping everyone involved live for the moment and have control of their situation, rather than have someone control it for them.

In hospice we see multiple stories each day.  Maybe you see the same story repeat itself often. Perhaps as you meet a new hospice family, you pause to consider, “How would I handle this if I were in their situation?” Might you start to care for them, taking the approach of how you would like to be cared for? Have you ever read a patient’s chart and determined, before meeting them, how to approach them, and what you will say?  I have. I think it’s part of human nature. Doing so, however, makes the assumption that the person you’re helping is just like you. Or just like someone else you’ve helped in the past.

It can be difficult to let the person and family dictate the needs. To share their story… let their needs unfold.  It’s then that we can use what we know, and the resources at our disposal, to help them through their journey.

The next time I am faced with an end-of-life situation I will remove “me” from the story, for I am not the star. I’m a stage-hand there to help them achieve the best final hospice patient experiences they can have.