In the End of Life Care and Bereavement Group I have on Facebook some of us who are or have been hospice nurses were talking about what we, as hospice nurses, had or have done to encourage and assist in the fulfillment of the last wants and dreams.
I have helped a woman go to Las Vegas to gamble one last time, helped a man return to his beloved Hawaii. I’ve smuggled a cat into a hospital, instructed and advised a family on how to get Grandpa to the lake in another state to go fishing and how to bring him back if he died across state lines. I’ve ordered crawfish from New Orleans for one last taste (he only ate one but it was the best he had ever eaten), helped a man walk (in a wheelchair) his daughter down the aisle to be married. Yes, I went to the wedding.
I drove people to the airport, picked up postal deliveries, took patients to church and to the Mall. None of these things were part of my job description---or were they? Bringing quality of life, helping a person live the best they can is part of the job description and if the above assists in that process then yes, I was doing my job as a hospice employee.
End of life isn’t about treatments and procedures. It is about humanity, about tenderness. It is about finding something good in the life that is left.
As I reread this my memories above seems small compared to the number of patients and their families I have worked with. It is sad that I didn’t ask more questions and help more people fulfill a “if I could do anything right now it would be----” or “ life would be really good right now if I could---” dream.
When my mother was on hospice I used to ask her each night as I tucked her into bed, “What was good about today?” That is a question we could ask our patients, their family and ourselves as well. What was good about this precious day that we have?
When my mother and step-father were diagnosed with lung cancer, I wrote A Time To Live- Living with a Life-Threatening Illness. When it is ordered with the End of Life Guideline Series, we receive many emails and notes telling us how useful the book is to their dying loved one.