Popsicles and Morphine

Everything changes when it's time to call hospice. A lot of the time-consuming, mundane caregiving tasks end; taxi-cabbing, running personal errands, picking up prescriptions, and so forth. When that nurse comes into your house, it's time to learn a whole new set of skills and responsibilities.

Dressing and undressing your loved one gives way to changing pajamas, scrubs, or nightgowns. You learn how to change sheets while they're in the bed and how to pull up the sheets to position the patient higher onto the mattress after they've slid down. Cooking changes or stops entirely. You buy different food and drinks.

Added to this, you're given a little box that sits prominently in your fridge like a snake bite kit in a backpack as you set up camp in a rattlesnake pit. It's there, you know it's there, and you know you're going to have to use it.

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Administering opioids

By far, the most frightening change for me was learning how to administer opioids. Morphine, especially. I have a healthy respect for narcotics, and I know they're nothing to play with.

Until our hospice nurse explained things to me, I worried I might accidentally overdose my wife, despite the fact that I followed the instructions to the letter.

She explained to me there wasn't enough morphine in my fridge to kill anyone, but I trembled every time I placed that dosing syringe in my wife's mouth.

Feeding your loved one

Due to my past as a cancer caregiver, I wasn't surprised when Lynette stopped eating. I knew what to stock up on, like Pedialyte and her favorite popsicles. This is what she lived on the past two weeks of her life.

If you're unfamiliar with the dying process, you might worry when your loved one stops eating, but it's perfectly normal. The body is shutting down, like lights in a house going out one by one when everyone goes to bed.

Lynette was a Type 2 diabetic, but she kept the disease in check with her diet. When she asked for the occasional soda pop, I didn't deny her this small pleasure. If the cancer patient is dying anyway, what's the harm?

I think it's cruel to deny something that gives joy after all they've been through. For crying out loud, let them have the chocolate, ice cream, or popsicles if the nurse says it's alright.

Benefits of hospice

The hospice program is amazing. I've worked with them many times, and never have I been disappointed. They love answering your questions and relieving the family's anxieties and concerns.

They will assure you there's no way you can underfeed or overdose your loved one. Sensitive and well trained in all aspects of home care, they will be your family's best friend, always on call and always supportive.

They're also your loved one's best friend, and that's all-important. Until her last day, my wife's face lit up every time our nurse entered the house.

Take advantage of the hospice program. It costs nothing for you, and it smooths your road ahead when things seem to be at their darkest. They also educate your family about your loved one's needs. I can't speak highly enough about the program, and the nurses, who gave so much of themselves to my wife, our family, and me.

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