Most people try to avoid thinking about mortality, but death is an everyday reality for people who work in hospice care. The nurses and CNAs who work with hospice patients have a unique window into the many ways all people cope with the end of life. Working in a facility that provides hospice care can provide insights that are relevant to daily life. Here are just a few examples of things you might learn by working in this setting.
Possessions Don’t Matter
When you go into the bedroom of a person receiving end-of-life care, there may be only a few items in the room. If it’s an acute illness, there may be flowers and cards, but it’s not as though patients bring collections of toys or movies. Pictures are a big deal, but they may be displayed on a board and covered with tape. Over the course of our working careers, a lot of our income goes toward buying things that seem important only for a short time.
People Have a Lot to Teach
During the weeks of hospice care, there is time to get to know just a little bit about each patient. More than a few have fascinating life stories, and some of those with incredible stories seem to have very few visitors. Unfortunately, there aren’t many opportunities to strike up deep and meaningful conversations during daily conversations at the grocery store or in the elevator. Still, it’s worth remembering that the strangers around us have their stories to share. Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to pay attention to others and ask perceptive questions.
Happiness Is Made
Even in the rooms of a hospice care facility, there can be laughter, jokes, and even joy. You’ll meet some personalities who just refuse to be downtrodden by circumstances. There are others who have every advantage, and yet they seem only to project anger and self-pity. Unfortunate life events can be very unjust, and it’s very easy to be sad and turn that anger outward. Still, it’s important to choose to keep a positive outlook and look for the silver lining. Optimism can help you overcome obstacles and, more importantly, minimize your suffering in times of genuine hardship.
What You Are Doesn’t Matter
It’s very easy to see the triviality of careers at the end of a person’s life. Once a person is wearing a smock in a hospice care facility, the details of their jobs don’t seem to matter as much. A former judge or CEO could be one room over from a former cashier or sanitation worker. The things that define a person in one-on-one conversation have more to do with compassion, openness, and perception. When you stand next to the patient’s bed and engage with them, they don’t need you to be incredibly witty or smart. They want you to care and be open to connection, and it would be nice if we could approach others in life with this attitude.