I was privileged enough have the same hospice patient the entirety of my hospice experience. It was very interesting to not only be able to watch my patient’s health as it progressed, and declined. But it was also interesting to be able to watch as our relationship developed.
I had a very rough start with my patient. During the first month, my patient was very confused as to who I was and why I was visiting her. My patient did not remember me for the first few months, and a few times she even asked me to leave her room and give her privacy. It was evident to me that she was upset with her condition, her declining health, and loss of independence. While she did not seem happy to see me the first couple of months, the more I would visit, the more I could elongate my visits. Every time I would meet with her we would talk a little more, and despite her telling me I could leave her, I could tell she was enjoying our conversations.
It was over a month into my experience that one day I visited, and introduced myself, as I usually did, and my patient responded; “yes, I know who you are, I remember.” This was an indescribable feeling, she was telling me that she knew who I was and had been enjoying our visits. From this point on, we engaged in long conversations about her past. She has told me a lot of stories about her family and grandchildren. I remember distinctly on Valentine’s Day she opened up to me for the first time about her husband who had passed away, and will always be her valentine she said. She told me stories of how they met and the trips they would take to the beach. I could tell she did not like to talk about her current situation or health, however if you asked her about her family or past she would light up and talk nonstop. Seeing the progression of our relationship is amazing. We went from her asking me to leave her alone, to her beaming as she told me stories about her deceased husband.
Overall hospice has been an extremely eye-opening experience. I have had a lot of hospital and clinical exposure, however it is extremely different to see the hospice side of healthcare. Personally, I have never been around someone near the end of life. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born and I was not a part of my grandmother’s end of life experience. It felt personal in a way to be able to be a part of someone else’s grandmother’s end of life, because I had never been able to be there for one of my own before. Through hospice, I have learned the importance of comfort and a good death. While my patient may not have always been happy with her condition, it was clear that she was getting the support she needed. My patient was lucky to be happy with her situation, I could not help but feel sorry for those who were not. Hospice has opened my eyes to the importance of patient-doctor understanding and communication, especially near end of life. These patients are extremely frustrated with their loss of independence and it is of utmost importance to allow them to feel as much joy and comfort as possible.
This experience has made my drive to become a physician even stronger, and it has emphasized the need for physicians who are compassionate for their patients and listen to them, especially near end of life. I enjoyed this program, and hope to return next year. One of my favorite parts has been the group reflection meetings.