Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Death Can Bring Out the Best or the Worst in People

One thing I've learned as a hospice nurse is that the death and dying process can bring out the best or the worst in family members.  It is part of our job to educate and comfort family members as well as the patients.  We teach them what to expect, what symptoms may develop, how we will help them and things like that.  Sometimes we have to help family members understand each other.

There are times when family members cause a patient more pain and suffering than their disease process causes.  Two adult children arguing over a parent's possessions, while the parent is still present, is a heart-breaking event.  In some cases there may be one family member who has been the caretaker for the patient for months or even years,  only to be criticized by another who shows up near the end.  There are times when a hospice nurse has to guide people to being their best version of themselves.  Sometimes a hospice nurse has to remind people that they have the choice to forgive or hold on to their anger.  These are not things I expected in nursing, but I find satisfaction in the effort.

More often than not, though, I see examples of remarkable sacrifices and acts of love.  I encounter people who guide me to be a better version of myself.  I see spouses spending all day, every day, at the bedside of their loved one.  I peeked in to check on a patient this week to find her in her bed asleep, with her spouse in a chair pulled up close to her bed.  They were holding hands.  They were both asleep.  Is that not sweet?

I've seen adult children who do everything they can to keep their parent as healthy and happy as long as possible.  I've seen them sacrifice of their own time to care for them when they could not care for themselves.  I've often heard statements along the lines of "I will do whatever needs done."  Sometimes "whatever needs done" can be tasks that are not so very pleasant, tasks that are humbling for both patient and caretaker.  I hear family members telling me how remarkable their loved one was and why they would do anything for them.  I love that.

These are the things I'm thinking about today.  Thanks for "listening".

1 comment:

Tina said...

I love you for how much you care, how much you give on a daily basis. To you family, friends, and even strangers that cross your path as they exit this world. You are one of those wonderful people you described.

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