Monday, March 15, 2010
After noting the false but common accusation that hospice and palliative providers receive - that they simply over-medicate patients to death - Hospice Doctor notes that sometimes, families don't buy the "morphine causes death" hype and ask for more medication. HD explains a situation recently encountered:
Having been through this myself, I can attest to the fact that I wanted to have more and more meds for my father who was dying of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He was restless and agitated - and to my novice but familial eye - he was suffering. It's hard to watch our semi-unconscious loved ones struggle, to feel disoriented by their surroundings, to try to get out of bed repeatedly, and to work hard to breath. But now, as a hospice volunteer, I understand that this is a fairly common experience for the dying - and attending loved ones. But isolation from how we die had convinced me that my father was in pain. What did I know of dying? What the media told me. No one discusses what it can look like, how it can happen. It took the experience of watching other dying patients in a hospice ward to understand what distinguishes pain from disorientation from the natural process.
And yet, as most Americans continue to die in hospitals, we tend to be removed from the dying process, unfamiliar with how patients' die. It's hard to explain to someone what to expect, particularly when they are in the experience with a loved one. Emotion makes everything highly charged.
But educate we must! Until more people understand the differences between pro-longing life and pro-longing death we'll continue to see patients' in hospitals at the end of life despite their desire to die at home.