Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lesson from a hospice patient this week

My job with Hospice of the Valley as an RN  case manager takes me to elderly patients who live in group homes or assisted living facilities.  

My boss asked me last week if I would take over the management of Evelyn.   I did not want to do it because I had met Evelyn on a triage visit 6 weeks ago and I did not like her very much.  She was:
1) very irritable,
 2) lived in a dirty apartment 
3) she had a jumpy yappy little dog that I didn't much like. 
(Some people tell me I have a character flaw for not being an animal-lover.  This may stem back to a traumatic experience when I was a teenager.  I went for a bike ride on the highway by the farm and our St Bernard followed me, only to get hit and killed by a car the dog was chasing.)  

Back to Evelyn.  So when my boss asked me I really fussed about it, telling her my reasons for not wanting to take her on.  
However, I have such a great boss and I really could not say no to her.  
So Friday was my day to visit Evelyn.  I told Doug I was dreading it.  But I prayed as I headed for her place and made a decision to think of her from God's perspective.  
Knock-knock.  'Yap, yap, yap!"  I entered to the jumpy dog 
and walked across the dirty carpet to her bedroom.  I introduced myself and asked if she wanted to stay in bed or get up.  She wanted to get up.  She weighs 74# and is very cachectic but she insisted on getting herself up out of the bed and into the wheelchair.  We visited a little.  Then I asked her how she was feeling.  (After all, I have to chart her pain level.)  
O boy, wrong question to ask Evelyn.  "How would you feel if you couldn't breathe 
and could not walk and had lived too long?"  

Yikes.  Back off. Take a deep breath. 
 Decided to comment on her beautiful paintings and ask her about how she became a painter.  That led to her telling me about her painting and then her career as a court reporter in some very famous cases.  I even pet the dog a bit.  Pretty soon I realized I was actually enjoying myself.  And I could tell she was appreciating the conversation.  I was able to gently remind her that God loves her and she thanked me "for the very enjoyable visit." 
  I could not have been more surprised.
Thank you, God, for grace.

Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work. 
Mother Theresa


  1. Great story. I loved how the Hospice nurses cared for my MIL - you all are angels in disguise. Linda

  2. Thanks for sharing. I think you're amazing, Mormor!

  3. Such a sweet story, all Evelyn wanted was to talk about happier times and someone to ask about "her" not her pain...
    I wonder about her family, whey don't they clean her apartment for her, since clearly she can not and the dog needs to be walked so he is less jumpy.
    You were there to treat her as her nurse but also you listened with your heart and it meant that you really cared about her.. You made Evelyn happy and maybe even smile for a moment.
    It take someone very special to be a Hospice Nurse and you are very special indeed..
    Have a sweet day and hugs, Elizabeth

  4. Wonderful little story. I have a deep respect for hospice as they cared for both of my parents when they were dying. I don't have enough words to say how highly I think of them. You know you are an angel on earth to do such work. Thanks!!