So, let's jump right to the bottom line, shall we? Where and how do you want to die?
Hard question? Maybe not. I know I want to receive the very best medical treatment for my condition. But, when all has been done that can be done, it will become very, very important to me to make my last days the very best they can be.
People receiving curative treatment can find themselves on a medical merry-go-round which takes on a life of its own. Doctor appointments, tests, treatments, medications and procedures fill our days, along with a feeling that we have somehow lost control over our own lives. Some of these treatments can take a toll of their own with uncomfortable or even painful and debilitating side effects. Worthwhile when they can help me; an unnecessary burden when they cannot.
I feel the same way about being in a hospital. If my life can be saved or improved by my being there, then I will gratefully accept the help of the medical community that has been trained to unrelentingly pursue cure and recovery. When cure is no longer possible though, it is the last place on earth I want to be.
I want to die at home listening to my family puttering in the kitchen while I sit in my favorite chair looking out the window at a birdfeeder in the tree I planted years ago, and petting the soft, warm cat sleeping in my lap. Hospice can help me do that by getting me a hospital bed if I need it and with careful home monitoring by compassionate and skilled nurses.
I want to be comfortable. Hospice can help me with effective pain control. I don't want to worry about my family struggling alone with their fear and grief. Hospice has people who can help with that too, even after I am gone. I may also want to talk at some point about the heavy questions on my mind. Hospice staff will listen, and answer my questions gently but honestly-even the difficult ones. They may ask me how I do feel but will never tell me how I should feel.
Most of all, though, I want to take back control over my life. For whatever part of my life is still left, I want to live it on my own terms. I want to make my own choices and have them honored and respected. I want to die with dignity.
Next time we'll look at the special needs of family and caregivers.