Sunday, December 15, 2013

Days in the life or life in the days...

The holiday season is around us and in us and whether we want to participate or not...it is screaming up on us.  Kind of a funny place to be when you are thinking that these are your last days...

Every year around this time, the hospitals empty out and the oncologists office call our agency because folks want to be at home. They want a break from the treatment, they want to look deeply into the eyes of their loved ones and imprint the memory, they want to say what they meant to say for the last year but just haven't done it and now, with the holidays approaching, it is time.

Therefore, if you are a hospice nurse, you are busy and I am.  I have a bunch of folks that have made the decision to put as much life in the days instead of days in the life.  

I admitted a man who was told that while there is no more curative treatment, they could try different things to "buy" him more time. About a month ago, my social worker and friend made the trek to his house to explain what hospice care is and answer all of his questions.  We left the house understanding that he was still deciding but knowing that he would probably be calling us in the future.  Well, as I said, he called and it was when he was in a crisis and his family was afraid.  After two visits and a shuffling of his medications to address his symptoms, his wife called me to thank me. She said he was doing better than he had done in the last 3 weeks and they even got a chance to "cuddle" and enjoy time with each other for the first time in a long time without pain and symptoms.  I hung up the phone and gave myself a "high-five". That is what hospice care is...

I have another gentleman that has ALS.  He is losing his muscles in his chest and is breathing very shallow.  He is also having trouble swallowing.  But, to watch him with his family, you wouldn't know there is a thing wrong.  He is hunting, going to wine tastings, and parties for the holidays.  Sure he gets tired and he sometimes needs the wheelchair to get to the party, but he is there, spending every minute with his family and his kids.  He is not some guy with ALS, who is not gonna make it...he is a husband and father and he is living every moment he can to the best of his ability.  I like to think that we are helping him with that by visiting, giving him strategies for swallowing, conserving energy and enjoying life as it is.  He also knows that I will be there when he can no longer do those things and I will help him and his family through that too.  That's also what hospice care is...

I am so inspired by these folks...they make the most of what time they have.  They get up in the morning, knowing that they have a terminal disease...then they put one foot in front of the other and live the day. Do they have bad days?  Sure...but don't we all? Maybe we aren't dying or maybe we are...

Life in our days or days in our lives...a thought provoking statement,  isn't it?  These days, I am keenly aware when I am just going through the days of my life. Running from thing to thing, not really listening to what is said to me, and trying to get things done.

Then, I show up to take care of  the folks that make the most of the life in the days...slowing down, maybe because they can or because they have to, but stopping and really feeling the moment and again and again I am humbled.

You see, I didn't stop to feel the hug that I got from my spouse or the feel of his mustache on my lips when he kisses me before I walk out the door... not really stopping and thinking about what that feels like.    Then I realize that if I were in their shoes,  I would be trying to do that now and wishing I had stopped more and felt the feelings more and I am sure I would wish I had more time to do those things.

So as the holidays approach and family comes to town...instead of running crazy to make things perfect, slow down and think about if this was the last time you got to spend Christmas with them...make sure you notice the little things, the memories, the time well spent just listening.  We never really know what is in store for us and as one of my special widows told me..."We don't get do overs even if we wish we did."  

Here's to life in the days instead of days in the life!
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,


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