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Posts Tagged ‘On Death and Dying’

“If a patient is allowed to terminate his life in the familiar and beloved environment, it requires less adjustment for him.  His own family knows him well enough to replace a sedative with a glass of his favorite wine; or the smell of a home-cooked soup may give him the appetite to sip a few spoons of fluid, which, I think, is still more enjoyable than an infusion.  I will not minimize the need for sedatives or infusions and realize full well from my own experience as a country doctor that they are sometimes life-saving and often unavoidable.”

~~Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, 1969

Now, before anyone takes it out of context, when she says “is allowed to terminate his life…” she did not mean physician-assisted suicide or mercy killing as it’s called.

She was talking about a patient going home, where she is comfortable, around familiar things, with people who know what kind of care she might need…

And I have to say, I have been in many homes where it was Jack Daniels that a patient was sipping off, not a nice Merlot.  And we were helping them out to the front porch for a cigarette so that the O2 tank wouldn’t explode.

But this is the messiness of real life. . . not visiting hours and sleeping curled up in a waiting room.

Dr. Kubler-Ross paints us a picture that was soon to become the portrait of what home care with hospice was going to look like.  Fixing the patient one last taste of stew, having the dog crawl into bed, having the grand-kids play noisily outside.

She goes on to say that when a patient is at home, the children in a family feel a “comfort of shared responsibility and shared mourning.  It prepares them gradually and helps them view death as a part of life, an experience which may help them grow and mature.”   She does not advocate for shipping the kids off to relatives house or keeping them so busy with soccer, debate club, babysitters, and sleep overs that they aren’t home.  Instead, she advocates for children to be present, to help them understand what’s going on, to be a part of things, and to have an idea of what is to come.

It’s in passages like this that I remember my days of home visits with families and I will admit, I took them for granted.  It’s how I was brought up and I just assumed that’s what families did.  Thanks to Elisabeth’s pioneering work, these images were added to our collective unconscious.

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