Commenting on a recent post, "Talking About Death,"Judy, an experienced hospice nurse, shares two illustrative experiences with end-of-life care -- one good, one awful.
A question came up: "What should an oncologist do if the patient and family insist on more treatment so the patient won't lose hope?"
Oncologists can review and renew their commitment:
- To help patients understand and choose wisely from among their treatment options.
- To help protect patients from futile therapies.
- To continue to help them feel as well as possible.
- To continue to care for them, no matter what.
Trouble can arise when patients, caregivers and/or healthcare professionals refer to "hope" as if hope is one thing that patients either have or don't have.
Actually hope is dynamic and multidimensional. People nurture a variety of hopes simultaneously, the balance among these hopes constantly shifting as circumstances evolve.
When treatment options run out, indeed everyone involved in the life of the patient experiences a loss of hope for recovery. Oncologists can help patients see that putting their hope in futile treatments doesn't prevent these patients from experiencing the loss of hope for recovery. It only delays the experience of loss and, as Judy shares in her comment, at a great price for the patient and the patient's loved ones.
Tomorrow I'll outline truths oncologists can share to help patients see hospice not as the end of hope, but as the beginning of new hopes that lead to healing.