Many painful emotional issues face family members and friends when a loved one becomes terminally ill. These include communicating the diagnosis to others; overcoming denial that the person is, in fact, near death; feeling the need to “be strong” and hide their sadness for the benefit of the patient and others; dealing with anticipatory grief; handling the physical and emotional exhaustion of intensive caregiving; and deciding when or whether to engage hospice care services.
I want to share the experiences I had near the end of my beloved Romanian soulmate’s life. First of all, I was in denial. Even though Ed’s medical team at his long-term care facility told me it was likely that he would pass away within six months, I continued behaving as though he would live another year or two, or even more. I even did extensive long-term financial planning to make sure he wouldn’t run out of money if he lived another three to five years.
I did eventually overcome my denial and decided to call in a hospice organization. But the very word “hospice” scared me. I was frightened just to look at the marketing materials from the hospice director. I felt as if ordering hospice care for Ed would be tantamount to signing his death warrant. I knew that was ridiculous, but that’s how I felt.
I delayed the call for weeks, telling myself he didn’t need it quite yet. The truth was that I wasn’t able to deal with it quite yet. Seeing how weak and frail Ed was, I finally felt compelled to take action.
I consulted Dr. Doug Smucker, a colleague who was a family physician at the University of Cincinnati and who was specialized in end-of-life care. I had a million questions about how he expected Ed’s decline to progress and I needed advice regarding the multitude of issues involved in end-of-life care. I wanted to know about ventilators, antibiotics, DNR (do not resuscitate) orders, living wills and so many other things.
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