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The Truth Every Person Should Know About Hospice Care

Updated on February 2, 2012

My father was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.

By the time he found out, the disease had spread far beyond the scope of modern medicine. Our relationship had been rocky to say the least, and I found myself dazed and confused when I got the call from him on the 4th of July that year. The news took a day to set in on me and then I found myself intent on going to be with him to be by his side. My fiancé and I departed for Florida 2 days later. We arrived to a good bit of confusion. My aunt and uncle had gotten there before us, and the plans were in place to take my "Pops" to Hospice. Even though I was against it, the papers were signed and we all waited for the time to come. We didn't have to wait long. His fate had been sealed by the cancer taking over his body, and within a few weeks, he was taken to the hospice. Here is what I learned.

How do you feel about over medicating a dying person?

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Hospice is not designed to prolong life

I do not want to give hospice care a bad name. They provide a great service to the community. I am sure that every situation is unique, but any time a person is headed for hospice care they are terminally ill. Accepting that a loved one will have to receive this type of care is difficult, I can attest to that. However, I would have thought that a place like a hospice would promote life to it's end. That is where I found some areas of discomfort with their policies. The nurses and doctors there will give patients unheard of amounts of medication. I respect that the patients are in great pain, but the staff knows those same medications shorten their patient's life. The hospice crew where we were gave my dad enough pain medication to kill an elephant. I expressed concern to the doctors about the strength and amount of medication that my father was receiving and learned that my aunt was giving the orders. Even though they had her permission, the staff was giving my dad way too much. That type of procedure was something that I would have never expected from a "medical care" center. I associated the treatment of my father more with Dr. Kevorkian than with a hospital. They helped my aunt usher him to his death.

Reassurance
Reassurance
Comforting
Comforting

I must be fair to both sides of this issue.

I was not patronizing when I said they provide a valuable service to the community. When a person is beyond saving and ready to meet God, hospice is a wonderful place. The nurses and doctors are friendlier than you find most places, and they know the little tricks that help the terminally ill pass with dignity. My father's nurses were all very kind to us, even though I gave them a bunch of crap about the medications. His death was tough for me, and I made it tough on them. My situation aside, hospice rooms are very well sanitized. The maids cleaned frequently and they cleaned well. I must admit to being grateful for that, because it was one less thing that I had to worry about. His room was private and large. The view out of the window was exceptional. They had beautiful cobble stone gardens outside as well. My fiancé and I walked through them while I tried to deal with the grief I was experiencing. Wildlife lurked around every turn. The landscapers had planted rows or colorful flowers along the paths. There were plaques on the walkway dedicated to those who had passed before my father at this place, and spaces for many, many more.....

The Garden
The Garden

Video: What Is Hospice Care?

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    • profile image

      Rose 

      6 years ago

      I lost my father to cancer, he elected to die a natural death at home. He enjoyed his hospice nurse, joking with her until his death. As a nurse, I made the change to become a hospice nurse. Every patient is dear to me. We become close to our patients and grieve over their death. I take something I learn from each patient and try to enhance what I can do for my patients to make their end of life more comfortable. You must understand, unless you have been in severe pain you cannot comprehend what it is like for the dying patient. Or the patient with COPD who suffucates . Morphine helps ease their breathing but it has the double effect of shortening their life. There is no cure for COPD, all we can do is ease their breathing and take away the panic of suffucating. I am sorry that people feel we shorten their lives by giving these medications, when in fact we are allowing them to pass away in comfort, dignity and grace, without fear. And yes, I cry when I get home over each of my patients.

    • rclinton5280 profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Clinton 

      6 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      Thank you for your kindness, and my condolences for your loss. My prayers go out to you. I am thankful both your mother and my father were not in great pain at the end. It's tough never knowing how things would have went without my aunt's influence. I try not to blame the hospice, he was ready to go meet God.

    • wildove5 profile image

      wildove5 

      6 years ago from Cumberland, R.I.

      I am terribly sorry for your loss. My Mother passed away a little over 3 weeks ago due to heart failure. She was placed in Hospice care after returning home from rehab were it was determined she was a " failure to thrive," She died a week and a half later. At the start of hospice my mother was offered her regular meds and food, when it was clear she could no-longer swallow she was offered liquid and suppositories. Only when her heart and breathing became so rapid that it was difficult to count, she was then offered Morphine. It was explained to me by the nurse and doctors that the morphine would help her heart rate and breathing to become more tolerable "for her." Twenty minutes after the first dose, I could no longer see my mothers heart "jiggling" rapidly, it had slowed a bit to a more normal rythem. I also was allowed to determine whether or not to administer the next dose. The nurses allowed me a great deal of say in the course of her care. I'm Sorry that your experience left you feeling that Hospice was rushing your fathers passing. I was assured constantly that the morphine was not killing my mother, yet, opening the capillaries in her heart and lungs to allow them to function easier, unfortunately it was just one more step in the process of passing. I believe without it, my mother's body would have struggled and suffered great discomfort. However she passed peacefully with my Father cupping her face in his hands while whispering I love you,,,,I love you,,, I love you,,, While our loss is so difficult to fathum, I cannot imagine what the alternative may have been without the help of hospice. I know the pain is unbearable at times, but hope you find peace in knowing that no matter how your father passed, he rests in a place far greater than here!

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