End of life is fraught with the stuff of life, and that can include tense relationships between spouses, parents and children, siblings who may disagree on a parent's care or may harbor years of rivalries and resentments. With skill and compassion, VNSNY Hospice counselors and clinicians help foster healing communication at life's end.
As physicians, we know that the patients are suffering. We know that their chances of returning to the life they desire are nonexistent. We know that this is a difficult decision. Should we respect their right to self-determination and help them continue this difficult existence until they decide to stop?
Hospice's palliative care model is increasingly recognized for bringing quality of life to end of life, yet Hispanics in America typically underuse it. Recent statistics show that about seven percent of hospice users in 2014 were Hispanic, while Hispanics make up 17 percent of the U.S. population, according to census figures.
My grandmother asked me to stay with her until it's over, and I can only think of a few reasons she'd ask me: She knows I'll talk about anything and won't mince words; she knows I will do anything for her if I'm able; and she knows I can be a calming presence. It took me a very long time to become a calming presence; it's still a daily practice.
"You want to get a Do Not Resuscitate tattoo on your chest?" I asked, as one might say to a friend whose goal was to lose 50 pounds. You'd support it, but you knew it would never happen. "No, I have one," she said quietly, pulling her shirt aside modestly to show the skin over her heart muscle. I stared at it unbelieving.