Don't Curse the Nurse!

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Picking My Plot – No, not that kind.

I got an invitation in the mail to plan my burial. You know, one of those things. The card had a glossy finish, discrete, but classy chestnut brown and dark gold background, the font, italic. Dinner included – at Red Lobster.

When I opened the envelope, I was thrown at first. Baldwin Fairchild did the mail out. I had no spouse in Hospice. My parents — alive and kicking, out daily, hobbies, traveling, yada yada.

I’ve seen something similar to this, except it was for future planning, investing, IRA’s. So into planning my financial future, yes I am, but do I get one of those in the mail like my parents…

No.

I get an invitation to decide if I want cremation or an open viewing, a mahogany or a pine casket; burial in a fancy- dancy cemetery with a view of a lake (like it’s really going to matter to me), or a local plot next to the fine/ expired residents of the city I live in.

I smirk at the irony of this because, see, I made no big deal about turning fifty over a year ago, but obviously Big Brother wants to acknowledge it. Flyers from AARP have gone in the trash. No disrespect to them, but at age fifty-one and far from being able to touch my IRA or Social Security without big penalties, what is the purpose of being inundated with this mail?

Especially mail to pick your burial site.

Let me say that I am an advocate of Advance Directives and making an effort to decrease the minutia of things your family has to do with your passing. The most important thing is to let them know what life saving efforts you want made in the case of significant health decline.

But this stuff in the mail. Geez!

I’m tempted to go to the dinner and ask questions like, “Would if I want to be buried in my back yard? Will this plan pay for it?” Or “I’d like to be buried next to Robert Frost. Is that possible?”

I won’t get any more insensitive about this. (You know what they say about Karma)

Someone told me a long time ago I had to deal with my issues about death.

Silly Rabbit. I’m a nurse. Death strolls through hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics picking and choosing whose time it is. I don’t know him personally, but sometimes I swear, I feel a draft and I know he’s just walked by.

You don’t stay in medicine without giving a head nod to Death and respecting his significance

I’m not afraid of Death. Sometimes I fear I’m not living enough, but I’m not afraid of death. I placed my life in someone else’s hands a long time ago.

When I’m ready to sit back, start counting my days left, and stop living. I’ll let Big Brother know. In the meantime, I have to finish this and go.

I have another doctor’s appointment.

 

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PEG tubes and Idina Menzel

menzelI walk into a procedure room and upon seeing a somnolent ninety-two year old prepared to have a PEG tube placed, I have the urge to burst into a chorus from the song “Let It Go”.

Yes people, I have found a loose connection between PEG tubes, advance directives, and Idina Menzel, the incredible singer/ actress that launched the above mentioned song into the stratosphere.

First I will fill in for any nonmedical people what a PEG tube is: It is a small rubber hose that a doctor puts in your stomach by first making a small incision on your abdomen. You’ll get liquid feedings, something the same consistency as baby formula, placed through the tube. Yes, you are sedated for the placement. The site on the abdomen is numbed with lidocaine. From there it’s anyone’s ballgame.

There’s risk to sedation. There’s risk to having the endoscope passed down the esophagus.  But…if you have been given power of attorney for an elderly family member, there’s no risk to you. You get to avoid the stress debating whether your family member actually senses hunger.  You get to avoid the discomfort that will return when the sedation wears off. This procedure, in my opinion, only relieves family the anxiety of taking a realistic look at the quality of life of the person lying in that bed.

As hard as it may sound, I’m going to ask you anyway…let it go. Think twice about agreeing to that PEG tube.

Let go of the guilt you feel because you are unable to make things better and are only a witness their last months.

Sit in the hospital or nursing home with them. Talk or read to them. Play pleasing music that makes their eyes open a little wider.

Keep the memories and the love they shared with you.

The guilt, the fear, the self-doubt that your decision to bypass invasive treatments is anything less than a sign of respect for the life they lived and would like to be remembered for —

Let it go.

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