Friday, January 9, 2015

Hospice Voices: Lessons for Living at the End of Life

Title:  Hospice Voices:  Lessons for Living at the End of Life
Author:  Eric Lindner
Publication Information:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2013. 232 pages.
ISBN:  1442220597 / 978-1442220591

Book Source:  I read this book wanting to know more about the experience of being a hospice volunteer.

Opening Sentence:  "I wasn't sure what to expect from Bob Zimmerman."

Favorite Quote:  "Between the curing of and caring for patients, there's plenty of room for healing - of human beings."

The dictionary defines hospice as "a home providing care for the sick, especially the terminally ill." The dictionary also includes a reference that the archaic definition of hospice is "a lodging for travelers." The linguistics of the words are the same as for the word hospitality. All aspects of the definition can be found in hospice care today.

The first hospice was established by Dame Cecily Saunders in London. She introduced the concept to the United States in the 1960s. These days, hospice care is a concept of caring for patients and families rather than a specified place. It is the concept of providing palliative care and supporting the quality of life. Patients and families facing the end of life have unique physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. The goal of the hospice service is to support all those needs.

Hospice care works on a team approach, with a team consisting of a physician, a nurse, a home health aide, a social worker, a chaplain and a volunteer. Volunteers are a key player on the team, so much so that the law requires that Medicare-approved hospices utilize volunteers from the local community. One of the most important services of a volunteer is to just be there, whether to engage actively in caring for the patient or family or simply to be a calm and quiet presence when one is really needed.

Eric Lindner started working as a hospice volunteer in 2009. This book relates some of his experiences as a hospice volunteer. It is not an evaluative, fact-based look at hospice care and the choices facing families and the medical profession for end of life care. It is rather a personal story of some very special relationships that hospice volunteering brought to Eric and his family. It is also the story of Eric Lindner's life and family as it intertwined with the lives of his patients. It is a tribute to the patients whose legacy is now captured in the pages of this book.

For a book about the dying, it is nevertheless joyful as the focus of hospice care is not on dying but on living well until death. That perhaps is the biggest "lesson for living at the end of life." Death is coming to all of us. The question is by the time we die, will we look back and say we truly lived? Even a terminal illness diagnosis is not a time to simply wait to die; it is quite the opposite. It is a time to capture every joy while we can. The personal stories of the patients in this book convey that lesson clearly.

The focus of this book is a personal look at the hospice experience. As such, it does not present the scientific research and discussion surrounding end of life care. The lessons in the book are personal ones - for the patients, families, and caregivers - and not global, societal ones. If you are looking for a medical and ethical discussion of end of life care, look to other books such as Being Mortal.  If you are looking at being a caregiver or volunteer, the experiences in this book give valuable perspective.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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