A resident of Anamosa and elsewhere transitioning to end of life care may have all sorts of questions for their health care provider, for their family, and pretty much for the whole universe.
Some, of course, are very general and theoretical, like what could happen to them spiritually or metaphysically after they’re gone. And some are very practical, like what will other family members do, or what paperwork items still need to be discussed and resolved before it’s too late.
Employees at Above and Beyond Home Health Care have heard all sorts of questions from patients over the years as they enter hospice care. Some of the questions we’re happy to answer, based on our experiences working with patients over the years and our own observations. Some, we know there is an answer to, like specific medical, legal or financial details, and we’ll be glad to find someone to assist you.
We also may even enjoy a philosophical or spiritual discussion with you during a visit. What happens during and after death is a personal topic for every patient but one that many sometimes are interested in discussing and pondering as they think about what’s ahead, or perhaps take stock of their life so far. Our staff never would claim to be spiritual or theological experts, but if a patient is the one to raise the subject, we’re always happy to lend an ear if asked.
All of these circumstances show how important communication can be. Good communication is useful anytime but especially vital when someone is moving toward the end of their life and they sometimes feel like they have more questions than answers.
Did you know that June is Essential Communications Month? Communicating essentially can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people, but a general takeaway is that we all can be a little or a lot better at discussing things taking place in our lives.
This could be personal, as far as how we interact with others individually or a larger group. It could be professional, including trying to be more aware of your demeanor and different non-verbal skills.
It could even be a dialogue with yourself, whether to remind you about tasks and keep yourself motivated and encouraged.
In a health care situation, good communication can mean checking with your provider with questions and them responding appropriately and timely.
Of course, in some situations such as a hospice setting the primary provider isn’t always as involved as he or she once was, but a hospice nurse or another volunteer may be able to answer questions or at least relay information to the proper provider or specialist.
Pushing for better communication can also be a two-way street.
As providers become busier and busier, their responsiveness to patient inquiries seems likely to decrease by nature, so it takes extra effort by them and their staff to keep on top of questions.
Some are now inviting patients to contact them or their offices by email or text. While this does create some challenges as far as record-keeping and data security, it has been shown to decrease wait times. Patients who can get answers to routine questions from a provider or someone from their staff might not need to schedule an appointment, saving them time, money and the effort to come into the office, especially if they’re in poor health. Fewer appointments during the day can mean providers can have more time for patients.
Communicating with families
People receiving end of life care can use the opportunity to improve communication with family and friends, especially if some relations have been estranged in the past.
Though the circumstances are difficult, it can be a chance to share final words or reconcile over past grievances. Coming together doesn’t replace lost time, but it can relieve some burdens of guilt or resentment.
Sometimes it’s difficult to begin these conversations, especially if tensions or bad blood have been going on for years, if not decades, and there is some physical separation. It also doesn’t have to be a negative situation: even if people do get along, some people may find it difficult to visit for what could the last time, since they’re not sure what to do or say.
Some ways to bridge this gap and begin this process include:
Find a middleman/middlewoman. Perhaps a friend or a family member who knows everyone can contact people from the past and invite them to come to visit. He or she can emphasize that it’s important and may not happen again.
Be direct. Since you may not have a lot of time left, it’s OK to be a little firm.”I don’t have a lot of time left and I’d like to talk to you.”
Forget about the past. The game of calculating who slighted who and why they did so potentially may go back decades. Consider giving everyone a clean slate as part of your final actions. This could relieve the burden on others, and on you.
Clear communication, whether between health care professionals or your family can be especially useful this time of your life.