I’ve often noticed that when people ask what I do, the response is often whispered back. I say I am a hospice nurse and most of the time, the person questioning will say “hospice nurse”, as if it were a bad word, as if by them saying it some crazy thing will happen and it will be hospice time for them. No, friends, that’s not how it works. It’s ok to use the word out loud H-O-S-P-I-C-E!! It doesn’t sting or pinch… It won’t cost ya’ll anything. It’s a word and a discussion that really needs to happen.
Let’s clear up some misconceptions about hospice.
1.) Saying it won’t automatically make you need it
2.) We don’t come dressed as the Grim Reaper (although, black is my favorite color and have been known to wear black scrubs often)
3.) Hospice has changed a lot of over even the past 5 years…
4.) Sure, admission to hospice means you have a life limiting illness, but, it doesn’t mean that you or your loved one will pass tomorrow.
5.) Contrary to popular belief, we don’t sign you up, cut all of your medications and leave you out to pasture.
6.) According to multiple studies, patients on hospice actually live 4 months longer than those who decide against it
7.) I am not a drug pusher… if I prescribe or recommend medications, it’s because a condition warrants it
8.) Admission to hospice does not mean a free for all for narcotics, benzodiazepines and opioids.
9.) MORPHINE DOES NOT KILL YOU (unless it is given in a non prescribed manner)
10.) The amount of Morphine that we prescribe and recommend is what is deemed to be the least possible amount which will yield the best positive outcome
11.) Morphine can be used for respiratory issues – shortness of breath – with great success
12.) We still worry, a lot, about pooping ….
13.) And peeing
14.) Hospice is a multi disciplinary approach to patient care… Not only do you get a pretty spiffy RN Case Manager (who will keep super close tabs), but there are social workers, chaplains, LPNs, CNAs, bereavement counselors, massage therapists, a glam squad, a guitar guy, a harpist… Get the idea here?
15.) Hospice is about comfort for a patient… It’s about living the best possible life in a comfortable manner.
16.) Hospice is also about supporting that patient’s loved ones… Often times, my visits are spent focused on a caregiver or family member… Caregiver burn out is a real thing… Situations are assessed and help is sent in…
17.) Hospice care does not end at a patient’s passing – we have a bereavement team that keeps in touch with families for a long while after. There are also hospice run support groups, gatherings, lunches and picnics…
18.) Hospice workers are not cold and non emotional sorts. We feel, often times more than we let on. But, we are able to keep focused on the idea that even though the patient is passing and that cannot be changed, our goal is to have them live out their days in comfort, with dignity and in the location of their choosing.
19.) Lots of times, people come to hospice when time has almost run out. I’ve admitted patients that have died the same day. That makes me sad because that patient and their family missed out on so many things that hospice would have provided that would have led to a more comfortable period of transition.
20.) Hospice is a patient centered idea – patient calls the shots and if at all possible, we work to make it happen. If they choose to pass at home, surrounded by loved ones (this is almost a blessing because think of how many people don’t get that) that is our focus and goal.
Get the idea? Yes, there is a sadness that is built-in to the idea of hospice. But, is so much more than just that.. It is support and encouragement, it is advocacy and monitoring, it is compassion and empathy, it is laughing and crying, it is life review and life planning, it is patient centered but family inclusive…
So, come on now… say the word… Hospice.. You don’t have to whisper it or spell it. It’s not contagious if spoken. I probably have the vocabulary of a drunken sailor and know a good filthy word when I hear one. Trust me, this ain’t one. Go hospice yourself! Oh, hospice! Mother hospice… see what I mean… doesn’t fly!
The passing is inevitable… however, how one gets there is not. It is like having multiple helping hands and smacking them all away.
We wouldn’t do it if we did not feel passionate about it.
It’s ok to start the discussion… Ask away..