Why are we so scared of dying?

A patient’s daughter said to me, “My mother isn’t afraid to die. It’s the time between now and then that she’s scared of.”

When I talk to patients and their families about hospice, many of them want to discuss the dying process. What will it be like? How long will it take? Will I suffer? Many people have never seen a natural death–their only experience is what they’ve seen on television or in the movies. They don’t know what to expect. And not knowing is scary.

When a patient chooses hospice, we make a commitment to walk the journey with them. We can help guide them through the dying process. Our nurses are experts in assessing and treating the symptoms that cause discomfort at end of life. We’ll be there to answer questions and to reassure them. And after the patient dies, we’ll continue to support the family with grief counseling.

Many families are afraid they won’t be able to care for a loved one who is dying. They sometimes think they need special medical training. Mostly what they need is support. We can teach the family how to turn a patient, give meds through a gtube, or use a Pluerex catheter. In addition, we can answer questions about medicines. The nurse who comes to the home will help keep the patient comfortable, and a 24-hour on call nurse will provide support nights and weekends. A home health aide will assist with bathing and grooming.
Each hospice provider has a chaplain on staff. The chaplain will provide spiritual support to both the patient and family, even if they all follow different faith practices. Many of our hospice families need assistance with locating outside resources such as funeral planning. As part of the hospice benefit, a social worker can assist with support and resources that are related to end of life. Finally, hospice volunteers play another important role in hospice care. Volunteers will wash dishes, run errands, or provide a short respite for caregivers.

Hospice is a wonderful gift for the end of life. Many of our families comment during the bereavement phase, that they wish they elected the benefit earlier in the terminal prognosis.

Hospice can’t take away sadness and loss, but we can educate and support families so that fear doesn’t have to be part of the dying experience.

Grace Blanchard RN, CHPN, St. Vincent Hospice


About the author

I am passionate about sharing senior citizen news and resources discovered from both my profession and personal journey.

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