July 2004, Volume 34 Number 7 , p 66 - 66
© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. Volume 34(7) July 2004 p 66 “Picky” behavior [INSIGHTS ON DEATH & DYING: CARPHOLOGY]
My family has asked me to spend time with my grandmother as she's dying. Last evening, after lying quietly for several hours, she suddenly began picking at her bedsheet. After a while, she quieted down again. Should I have intervened in some way? —F.G., QUEBEC
The behavior you describe is called carphology or floccillation. You described it perfectly when you used the word “picking.” Associated with terminal restlessness, carphology can be treated with small doses of lorazepam (Ativan).
That said, I encourage you to consider whether your grandmother really seems distressed before reaching for the medication. Ask yourself, Whom am I treating for this behavior—my grandmother or me?