I’ve spent a week on my palliative care rotation and boy has it been heavy. Palliative care is focused on quality of life and relief of symptoms, especially towards the end of life. I’m assigned to a nursing home, so not only am I exposed to end of life issues, but I’ve been able to learn about geriatric/elder patient care in general. I did a puzzle with a 94 year-old in occupational therapy and I saw a patient around the same age in her last days of life. It’s been quite the ride.
Earlier in the week I was part of a very delicate conversation concerning one of our patients nearing the end of life. It was a team meeting with the patient’s son and grandson. Our medical director asked questions like “how do you envision a good death for the patient?” and “what are your goals for the end of life?” They were trying to think about what the patient would want, as he could no longer speak for himself. Such a delicate time for the family.
Dealing so much with death and end of life has actually made me reflect a lot on life and how we all want to life full lives. And even at old age, after living a full life, death can still come suddenly to a family. There’s never really any way to prepare for that conversation. But it’s a reminder to live each day to the fullest and take advantage of all the ways you can make a difference in people’s lives. To pursue your passions and not put a hold on your goals for life. Because at the end, we aren’t all going to be blessed with the opportunity to plan out how we or our loved ones will leave the world.
As a future physician it’s nerve-racking to think that I’ll have to have these kind of conversations with patients and their families as soon as my first year out of school. So I’m happy to be getting the small exposure I am now so that maybe when I’m more important I’ll be able to guide a family through such a vulnerable time as this.
One more week of palliative care, then Family Medicine. Stay tuned. I’m excited for the week ahead!