When I got the pitch for Hospice Voices, by Eric Lindner, I was intrigued. I know some of my family members have been in hospice care, but I can't say that I know much about hospice care. How does one cope being around people who are near death? Given the subject matter, I assumed this would be a sad sad book but I was wrong. Eric Lindner's book doesn't dwell on death, instead it celebrates the lives of the people he met.
When he starts out, Eric is given a hefty list of dos and don'ts. He's a stranger coming into the homes of others, so of course there are a lot of rules.
"Don't expect your patient to conform to your standards/expectations. Don't interrupt when the patient is sharing. And, last but not least, don't assume you know what their needs/feelings are." Pg. 6
How do you balance what you think is right for the patient with the patient's wishes? Or do you always follow the rules? For the most part, Eric Lindner seemed to follow the rules. He listened to his patients. He engaged in funny banter with them. He got to know their family members. He even tried to knock something off their bucket lists. Anything to make them more comfortable as death drew near. With Bob Zimmerman, Eric was able to find common ground on their mutual travels abroad. Towards the end of his life, Bob had simple needs. Chemotherapy treatments diminished his sense of taste. Before the end he really wanted to have some pancakes. Eric did get him his pancakes. It was one of several sweet moments between the two of them.
Another time Eric was torn between what seemed like the right thing to do and what he had been taught to do. The medication for one patient hadn't been prepared for the day, and it would have been hours before a nurse or family member came to the house. This was a boundary that Eric had been taught not to cross. She might not need the medication but it would give her peace of mind just to know that it was there. Eric prepared her medication, and I can't say I wouldn't have done the same. His superiors disagreed with that decision. There weren't any major reprimands for this decision, but it left me a little curious. Isn't making the patient feel comfortable or at ease part of hospice care? I guess it's hard to know your place as a hospice volunteer. What sounds reasonable to you could actually be wrong.
I think a book like this can teach a lot of people about compassion and humility. You think you know a lot about people and society at large, but everything changes when people are at the end of their lives. You have to know when to speak and when not to. When to act and when not to. If you find the right balance, you can help someone find a little slice of happiness at end of their life.
Note: I received a copy of the book as part of a blog tour with Premier Virtual Author Tours