Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Cost of Dying

Article, part I: "They're dying -- we just need to talk about how they want to die"

Article, part II: The palliative care program stresses such family togetherness.

Preparation, help and coping information:
How to prepare

* Talk with your doctor before a crisis occurs. Ask her to explain treatments and procedures. Make sure he knows the quality of life that you would desire.

* Select a health care agent — appointed by a legal document called a medical power of attorney — whom you trust and who understands your decisions. Be certain to ask your agent if he or she is willing to act on your behalf. Make sure your doctor has the name and phone number of your health care agent.

* Reassess your decisions over time. They might change as circumstances in your life change.

* Prepare advance directives. A medical power of attorney allows you to appoint a person you trust as your health care agent, who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf.

When someone is sick

* Talk openly with the doctor.

Good questions to ask:
What kinds of complications or special needs might arise?
What is the likely time frame for this illness?
What are the best possible outcomes?
What are the worst possible outcomes?
What symptoms am I likely to have as my disease progresses?
What medications or other treatments should I have at home in case of sudden pain or other symptoms?

* Ask whether your hospital provides palliative care services.

* If you’re in pain, ask your health care providers what they can do to alleviate your symptoms.

* Contact your local hospice to find out what kind of services they offer.
I can't imagine what we would have done without Hospice, without the opportunity to be there with Mom as she lived her last days. We holed up in the family room, the fireplace lit, surrounding her. Jennifer, our awesome Hospice nurse, came by daily to help us care for Mom. She told us how to make her comfortable. She told us when her death was near. She guided us through what might happen when she died and what to do when she did.

Thank you, Hospice. I'm endlessly grateful.


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