If You Fall I Will Catch You…Time After Time

This morning after chores I stood and watched Sun try hard to shine its brightest as it was rising. But clouds coming in from the southwest had other ideas. Brilliant rays burst up and shot to the top of the clouds. But, to no avail. Try as it might, the clouds slowly moved in and like a blanket covered up Sun’s rising brilliance. Cheeky Moon had long since been chased away. I love these mornings when the energy is amazing.

More time. I just need a little more time, is what it seemed Sun wanted.

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you…..
thank you Jim Croce.

Time, the great equalizer

Song lyrics and novels are written about the concept of how time runs out on life. If you have a loved one on the edge of time here on earth, in most cases what you’re looking for is keeping them here a little longer. You are looking for more time.

Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing ~ Miles Davis     

Caring for a life that is getting ready to leave this world is not a topic that comes up in casual conversation. Nor is it a subject that’s always welcome. As a matter of fact, it can be a real buzz kill unless you happen to be in a room full of hospice/palliative care professionals. As someone who has delivered this care I have marveled at the mixture of reactions I’ve gotten when someone finds out what I do.

Honoring the Human Animal Bond

To promote our nonprofit foundation we set up tables at various venues. Besides veterinary events we also attended pet expos among others. It was a lovely table dressed in soft shades of purple embellished with crystal and draping gauze. We proudly displayed our sign stating who we were and what we did. We provided handouts for those wanting more information about veterinary hospice and palliative care and our services that provided that.

Fear and misperceptions

Our booths at pet expos were met with mixed reactions. Some folks were drawn in like magnets. They were fascinated at what was being offered for pets. But a percentage of people reacted as if they might catch something contagious. The ones that brought small pets with them clutched them tightly as they looked at our booth and walk away quickly. So strong is the stigma of end of life care and all that surrounds it! So strong is the fear of losing a loved one. So strong the fear of death!

Let me tell you my story

Whether it was a booth at a public event or at a veterinary event, the people drawn to us seemed to have the same mission. They wanted to know about the concept of end of life care for pets, but they also wanted to share an intimate story of losing one of their beloved pets. Hospice/palliative care providers are seen as safe, compassionate people. Our special relationship with families losing a loved one is a different dynamic than other parts of healthcare. Time is what they see us providing. More focused quality time with a loved one is what hospice/palliative care provides.

I love the rhythmic entrainment that so often happened between me and a nurturing family and their loved one getting ready to transition. This was a sacred triad.

HOW we talk to each other

COMMUNICATION:  the imparting or exchanging of information or news……. means of sending or receiving information, such as phone lines or computers.

We pay an awful lot of attention to the art of communication. It’s hard to pick up a trade journal that doesn’t include something about communication in their publication. Article upon article, as well as CE lectures provide us ways to communicate better. Experts from various disciplines give us tools and strategies to help us be better communicators.  And, we need to have good communication skills when we are delivering hospice/palliative care. We are giving medication instructions, nursing care and nutritional instructions as examples. But, communication is a small part of end of life care.

WHY we are talking

CONVERSATION:  a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged…..An informal exchange of ideas or opinions about a particular issue.

What I love about end of life care is that what we mostly have is conversations. When we have conversation we aren’t just communicating, we are sharing and building trust. We are moving together in a dance with one mission, with a communed energy. We have conversations about a loved one inching their way out of this world. We have conversations about what does quality of life care look like. We have conversations that include stories and memories. We are all holding space for this passage of crossing over to be peaceful. And, families want to prolong this event for as long as humanely possible. We are having many, many conversations. That’s what hospice/palliative care provides. And hospice/palliative care providers have the time to do this. The process is magical.

 When our hearts talk

Conversation, rather than communication, requires everyone to listen between the lines.

To give you my best self as a hospice/palliative caregiver I have to eavesdrop on the voice coming from your heart. And together we listen intently to the one leaving.

The questions

Why don’t many healthcare providers bring up end of life conversations sooner? Why don’t our healthcare systems, human or nonhuman, embrace the idea and philosophy of end of life care and bring in hospice/palliative care professionals sooner? They most certainly have the opportunities. It seems like many don’t know the undeniable benefits this would provide. Why not?

Hospice/palliative care providers have been lamenting for years they would be able to provide better care if they were brought into people’s lives sooner. The entire philosophy is built around more care, not less. Quality of life while still here on earth. Support for the families of the loved one and an emphasis on how to live rather than how to die. Still, in way too many cases healthcare providers avoid these conversations until the very end of life.

Not soon enough

In human healthcare, sometimes hospice/palliative care is called in just before last breaths. It is difficult for hospice to be fully effective at these times. If the patient is nonhuman, it may be talked about right before a final walk or final meal before euthanasia. Because a common misunderstanding by veterinary providers is that hospice/palliative care is another way to provide euthanasia. It’s not. That may be the end result but there’s much more that goes on before that happens. Perhaps an end of life liaison would be helpful?

The gift of hospice care

Hospice care is a gift to families. Engaging a philosophy of care that is solely focused on giving more – more care, more devoted time, more conversation – at a time when a loved one is dying is priceless. Time is the gift.