My husband’s beloved older brother passed away on Christmas morning.
Many people might think a death on Christmas Day would taint the holiday, bringing up an unpleasant and unwelcome memory year after year.
But we believe future Christmases will actually be more special and meaningful, and we can feel this way because my brother-in-law not only lived a purposeful and rewarding life, but he died a good death.
What is a good death? In my mind, it’s about being at home, as comfortable as possible, and surrounded by friends and family. In my last moments I want to see what … Continue reading
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month!
I am a huge supporter of hospice and palliative care, but I think it’s underutilized in our health care system.
My father, before he passed away two years ago, had the benefit of hospice care for a few weeks before his death. My husband’s family also received support from hospice when his father passed away four years ago.
I’ve found in my own experience that doctors often wait for the patient or the patient’s family to bring up the topic of hospice. That’s why it’s important for everyone to … Continue reading
I’ve been a fan of Peggy Girshman’s science and healthcare writing for a long time, so it was with great sadness that I read about her death in March at the young age of 61.
But in tribute to her award-winning journalism career, which included long stints at both NPR and Kaiser Health News, she actually wrote her own eulogy!
She wanted to share a few simple lessons she had learned from her years on the job of reporting healthcare-related stories. Because they resonate with my own view that we need more health and less medicine, I wanted … Continue reading
I just read about another case where a pharmaceutical company bought the rights to an old, been-around-forever drug and then drastically increased the price. Argh.
A few months ago I posted about the drug Daraprim, which was bought by Turing Pharmaceuticals. Its CEO, the now infamous Martin Shkreli, raised the price from $13 a pill to over $700.
Last February, Valeant Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to Seconal (secobarbital), an 80-year-old sleeping pill. Ten years ago 90 Seconal tablets cost about 30 dollars. Now it’s closer to $3,000.
It’s believed Valeant did this in response to California’s new End … Continue reading
I subscribe to the belief that no one should die alone or afraid, and death is a natural part of the life cycle that can be—should be—a sacred, deeply meaningful experience.
Sadly, too often that’s not the case. Our current health care system doesn’t do death well at all. Unless they qualify for hospice, patients and their families are left feeling helpless, confused and afraid. Sometimes angry.
No one expects us to be experts at childbirth if we’ve never had a baby. Why should we be experts at death if we or a loved one has never died before?
I … Continue reading
I’ve always believed that if I were diagnosed with a terminal illness and had a choice between a few months of quality living and a few extra months filled with doctors’ visits, surgeries, lab tests and drug treatments, I would choose quality of life.
Many friends, some of them doctors, have told me, “Oh, you think that now, but when the times comes the will to live is just too strong. You’ll do anything for that extra time.”
Would I? I guess I won’t know for sure until my time comes.
That’s exactly what a hospice physician thought—Will I … Continue reading
November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.
It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t aware of—and scared of—dementia**. Or who hasn’t had a family member or friend stricken by it.
Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that damages not only the individual, but family and friends, as well, especially the primary care giver—most often the spouse.
Adding insult to injury is the incredible cost of getting help. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine confirms what many already know—Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia cost families way more than almost any other disease.
Why? Cancer is one of … Continue reading
Apparently even health care providers don’t understand all the different end-of-life forms that might accompany a patient into the hospital.
I watched a parody video (to Green Day’s “Good Riddance”) on YouTube that seeks to educate and eliminate the misunderstandings.
These end-of-life forms, also known as advance directives or health care directives, are similar but differ slightly in scope and usage.
Certainly physicians and nurses should know the difference (and in my experience, most of them do), but it’s equally helpful for patients and family members to understand them so “medical mistakes” can be avoided.… Continue reading
I just read that the brilliant physician-writer Oliver Sacks died yesterday from a rare form of eye cancer. Although he had been diagnosed with the disease several years ago, he learned earlier this year that the cancer, a form of melanoma, had spread aggressively into his liver.
At that time, he wrote a moving Op-Ed for the New York Times, and I bookmarked it because his words reflecting on his terminal diagnosis really resonated with me.
It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in
… Continue reading
File this video under “Adorable.”
I’ve posted a lot about end-of-life issues and hospice in the last few months because my father recently passed away after a short stint on hospice.
So I couldn’t resist passing along this viral video of JJ the Hospice Therapy Dog doing his thing—being a warm, soothing and unconditionally-caring presence.
JJ has his own Facebook page, so you can go there if you want to watch other videos and read some of “his” stories (his owner is a hospice nurse).
You can also find links to learn more about … Continue reading