INSIGHTS ON DEATH AND DYING: Walking on eggshells

June 2004 
Volume 34  Number 6
Pages 82 - 82
  PDF Version Available!


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    Should I encourage family members to say good-bye to a dying person who doesn't want to acknowledge his terminal condition? —J.B., CALIF.

    Yes, because otherwise everyone misses an opportunity for healing and growth that will soon be gone forever. My experience with Ed, a 47-year-old man dying of liver failure, is a good example of how a nurse can ease the way for a patient and family.

    A fierce fighter, Ed couldn't admit that the battle for his life was almost over. He refused to talk with me about hospice or palliative care, saying only that he was going to beat this.

    The medical and nursing team had informed the family that Ed was dying and they needed to gather round. They didn't think they could remain in the room without breaking down. His mother asked me to meet with the family, who felt as if they were “walking on eggshells” whenever they talked to him.

    When the ...

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