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Thursday, March 31, 2016

When the End is Near

arztsamui on

In two impersonal, sterile hospital rooms two separate families gather to keep vigil, to say good-bye.

Previously the doctors have had the hard conversations - the loved one is no longer responding to treatment and the prognosis is grim.

The patient and his or her family too have difficult decisions to make, hard conversations to hold. Words must make their way past a lump that forms in the throat, around sadness that breaks the heart, through tears that glisten in eyes and spill down cheeks, and finally formulate in a brain dazed by shock. These conversations require great courage.

The two families keeping vigil had these hard conversations. One family chose to deny the reality of their loved one's situation. The other family chose to let go. The patient chose to let go of this life and his family chose to let him go.

Letting go of this life and of a loved one is a heart-wrenching decision and it can also be an immense gift of love.

The family who denied reality and rejected the option of palliative care, of hospice care watched their mother, wife, and grandmother die painfully. Her death was a traumatic event both for her and for her family.

The family who chose to let go also chose hospice care. Hospice focuses on palliative care--keeping the person comfortable through the dying process. Hospice is not about heroic efforts to extend life, but about helping a person to die peacefully and helping a family to cope with the heart-rending loss of their loved one.

For many there comes a point when the doctors and other medical professionals have exhausted their options, when the treatments have failed. At this difficult moment in life, the choice becomes how to let go, how to face death. Hospice care, palliative care can help families make this difficult transition with support, care, and comfort.

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