I've begun writing occasionally for the new aging site agingcare.com. My first piece for them was a reflection on the hospice care I've had for my family. I thought you may enjoy my take on this important subject. The title on the site is "Hospice and Palliative Care: Helping People Die."
No one needs to die in pain. That’s what the hospice social worker told me, as I signed the papers that would put my dad on hospice care. No one needs to die in pain. That’s the mantra of hospice, and it became my mantra, as well. I had to believe it, as my dad had suffered so much.
For weeks, each time I walked into Dad’s room in the nursing home, he’d be rigid in bed, up on one elbow and slamming his fist against his hand. Pow! Pow! Pow! Over and over, he pounded fist against hand. I’d try to get him to relax; to lie back. He couldn’t comprehend. Pow! Pow! Pow! He was trying to knock out the pain.
Dad was in Rosewood, where he’d lived since the brain surgery that was to correct the results of a World War II brain injury, compounded by age, failed. Dad went into surgery foggy, from fluid building up behind scar tissue. We soon learned that, while the surgery was medically successful – the shunt that was inserted into his brain to drain the fluid worked – Dad suffered from what I call “instant dementia.” He needed complete nursing home care.
Each time I saw him in such an agitated state, I would hurry from his room, back out into the hall to talk with the nurse. Had the doctor been in yet? Had he seen Dad like this? Would he please help us get Dad on hospice?