Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yep...I did it. I killed 'er.

2200 hrs -- A grandmother has died. I enter the home and offer my condolences to the four family members gathered in the living room. One of them responds with a grunt. All four faces are grim... eyes narrowed. No evidence of tears. No sniffling noses. I go, unattended, into the grandmother's room, examine her and make an official pronouncement of time of death. 

Upon reentering the living room, I notice that the family is sitting, four abreast, on the sofa and staring at the television. All with stony faces. All with arms folded over their chests. I notice that they have a Tivo. I'm oddly curious about it. I don't think I've seen one before. I give myself a mental poke in the ribs and begin my usual spiel:

"The first thing I'm going to do is call the coroner's office. I'll just be giving them some basic demographic information about Mrs. (    ). Then I'll call the funeral home and they will take her to the mortuary. No police, emergency services or investigators will come to the house. Do you have any questions?"

Stone, cold silence. Not even crickets. All four faces still pointed at the TV. My gut makes a little jump from a sudden realization. They're all pissed off at ME! Or at least at the philosophy of care that I represent. 

Some families only begrudgingly accept hospices services. They've been informed by medical professionals that their loved one will no longer benefit from aggressive treatment. That there will be no more "getting better" or miraculous recoveries. They're able to intellectually process this information, but there's always something left gnawing at them. Some kind of a "what if". To them, accepting hospice care means giving up. To some people, just letting someone die is as good as killing them.

I sit at their kitchen table. All necessary phone calls and laptop entries have been made. Unless I get another emergency call, I am committed to staying here until the funeral home guys arrive. It's gonna be a looooong wait.


john said...

I am having a hard time dealing with the death part of health care. I have attempted to "get out" but the job market combined with the money I made keeps drawing me back. Someday soon, dealing with my problem has to be taken care of. Do you have any words of wisdom for a struggling soul?

dethmama said...

Personally... every few months or so i have a complete freakout and then i'm ok. what field, do you work in? i am not a counselor, but feel free to email --

sallysue said...

Many times you have a thankless job. I want to thank you. Years ago, I lost a sister to a brain tumor.
We cared for her in the home and it went on for a long time. Hospice nurses such as yourself came in and helped us greatly. You couldn't cure it, you couldn't make it go away, but you taught us how to provide good care of our dying sister. You helped make it bearable for us. We are grateful.

SeptLibra said...

So what about the families that weren't expecting a cure just quality care and a decent education on what we should be doing to make the remainder of her life comfortable, Vitas stinks like hot wet week old garbage.