"You need to get here now!" The nurse whispers anxiously. It's after midnight. One of our hospice patients has just died at home, and her husband is threatening to shoot himself when the funeral home shows up. "Has the funeral home been called?" I ask. "No." "Does he have a gun or weapon?" "We're out in the country. There are deer heads on the wall." I try not to stereotype, but deer heads are a ...

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Ben diverts his eyes and wipes away tears, his typical stoicism and iron-willed suppression of emotion giving way to a sea of churning thoughts, feelings and memories. While visiting as his hospice social worker, we’d been talking about his impending death, walking it through in our minds from the time the funeral home arrived until he’s planted in the ground. We’d talked about death before, and he’d always been cool ...

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Sheila’s jaw is clenched. Sweat is beading on her forehead. I make a slow audible inhale, non-verbally inviting her to do the same. We’ve been talking about the nightmares which started shortly after she began receiving help with personal care. I remind her that she is safe — the day she was raped is decades in the past. Her conscious mind knows this, of course, but for people with posttraumatic ...

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"Why don't you talk loud enough for the whole damn hospital to hear you?" I've just greeted my eighty-four-year-old grandmother, and now this irascible voice has erupted from behind the curtain that separates us from whoever is sharing Grandma's room. The nursing assistant whfo showed me in glares across the curtain at the other inhabitant. "You shut up," she tells the person firmly, "or I'll smack you with a bedpan." Then, she leaves us ...

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