Dr. Bob Lehmberg, husband of Jennifer O’Brien, author of The Hospice Doctor’s Widow, used the term “Precious Time” with his palliative care and hospice patients and families who were dealing with end of life situations.
I LOVE that phrasing “Precious Time”.
What does it mean? Doctor Bob’s definition was “Precious Time is a type of time, a distinct period of life. Precious Time may indeed start upon the life-limiting diagnosis or it may start as death nears or becomes imminent. It is a gift to recognize that you have entered into Precious Time with a loved one.”
In our medical society today, it seems to be very difficult for physicians to tell patients and/or families that death is approaching; that this special person will die, and probably sooner rather than later; that there is no fixing the medical situation.
How much more meaningful and helpful would it be for physicians to say to patients/families, “We have come to the end of our ability to cure this disease. We’ve tried our best but it is time to focus on keeping you comfortable. You are entering Precious Time. This is the time to do and say what needs to be done and said. This is the time to live as best you can, to make each moment meaningful to you. I will help you, guide you to resources that will assist you during this precious time.”
Think of the quality of living and life those beautiful words can convey. It reduces some of the fear we all bring to an ending of a life experience. It changes the focus from “death is coming, we don’t know what that will be like, I’m going to die and there is nothing I can do about it but wait for it to happen.” Instead, the focus becomes, “We will come together. We will make this time special. We will see this as a gift. It will be a Precious Time.”
I’m not saying there won’t be fear, aloneness, and challenges involved in precious time. I would hope there would be hospice or end of life doula support and continued physician guidance.
The concept of “Precious Time” helps us put this natural life experience in a more positive perspective. How about teaching Precious Time in medical and nursing schools so our medical professionals will have a more sensitive tool to offer their patients when death will come sooner than anyone wants.
Something more about… Entering Into “Precious Time”
Families will need support and education when Precious Time has begun. I encourage you to use BY YOUR SIDE: A Guide for Caring for the Dying At Home as you navigate the end of life waters. The guidebook addresses end of life choices (life sustaining, comfort care), advance directives, and funeral planning. It details signs of approaching death (what to look for, what to do); describes end of life care at home; pain management; care of dementia patients at end of life; and, very importantly, how to take care of yourself as you fulfill your role as caregiver.