Dr Pamela Prince Pyle

Understanding Hospice Care

If Only I had Known

We had just met, yet tears welled up in her eyes as she shared the story of her father’s death. He had lung cancer and while she knew “it was bad”, she was entirely unprepared for his death which occurred a few days after her arrival to the home of her youth.

Her parents had remained in the home where memories were made and shared. It was a place of laughter, Friday night movie nights, Sunday suppers, and once a month Bingo for the neighbors. 

As she opened the door, she recalled the sense of disbelief in seeing the living room where board games were played, and football watched now rearranged to make space for the hospital bed and a bedside commode. Her father’s trim physique now appeared skeletal in the bed in which he took very little space. 

She tried to process the change in his appearance since her last visit 8 weeks previous. She randomly thought, “It can’t have been eight weeks. Did I miss a visit when I was off last?” Her thought was interrupted by the bear hug squeeze from her younger brother and the voice of her mother calling her name.

Karen described these moments with clarity as we sat together during a break in a conference, we were both attending. The clarity became less focused as she recalled the last days of her father’s life. The days and nights ran together as her father drifted in and out of consciousness until the day, he did not wake at all. 

The tears spilled down her cheeks as she looked out the window and said softly, “If only I had known”. 

While Karen sorted through the rest of those memories, I couldn’t help but be reminded of so many families who enter the world of hospice. As a hospitalist, I was often called upon to care for those with terminal disease. Unfortunately, so many of those patients would have benefitted from hospice care long before their final admission.

 Life may have looked different if hospice care had started earlier. Certainly, daughters like Karen would not be living in guilt for having missed the tender moments of her father’s final months. 

What you Need to Know about Hospice Care

When faced with a terminal illness or the decline of a loved one, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of hospice care. Hospice provides specialized support and comfort for individuals nearing the end of their lives, focusing on quality of life and compassion. In my next post, I will share with you five key points to understanding hospice and future posts will give additional guidance on this important topic.

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