living your best to the end
Palliative Home Visits are the Future

Palliative Home Visits are the Future

“What I fear the most – what really terrifies me – is being short of breath and not being able to swallow.” So said the husband of his dying wife. This is terrifying to me, too, so I listened closely to the response given by Palliative Care  physician, Dr Sandy Buchman: “I can help with shortness of breath: there are medications that change the perception of that feeling of breathlessness. It doesn’t change the underlying cause, but I see patients whose breathing is still labored yet they say they’re now feeling fine. About swallowing: eventually, your wife will not be able to eat. That’s normal, and I can help both of you cope with that. “ I am in the privileged position of being invited to ‘ride’ with Dr Sandy Buchman on palliative house calls. Working at a teaching hospital, he often brings residents as part of their learning experience, but I am the only layperson to get this access. And what an experience it was: learning more about the palliative approach – to symptom management and to that all-important aspect of any meaningful interaction: communication. We decided my best introduction would be ‘educator’ and, although a bit apprehensive about intruding at a fraught time, I was universally welcomed. In a couple of the visits, I was able to employ ‘active listening’ with family members feeling comfortable enough with me to share insights that proved helpful. A range of palliative patient and family situations A B, 100 years old, on oxygen, was a renown pathologist; L.M., 88, bed-bound, the right side of his face paralyzed, was key economist to...