Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hospital -- no place for dying

During the last several months I've observed the in hospital palliative care of my mother's last remaining sibling, my 91 year old uncle.

It's been a frustrating, difficult and painful time for all of us. In large measure because the British Columbia health care system is in collapse but also because my uncle arrived at this point in his life lacking faith and patience.

Beginning with my uncle's physician there was little positive regard for my uncle. No one saw the whole person nor inquired about his life -- no one cared who he was, what he had done, how he had lived.

His primary care-givers, the LPNs, each one had 30 patients to attend to during each shift. They had not time to deal with an old dying man's fear and pain. Overworked, stretched to the maximum, the LPNs barely had time to do basic care. There were no back rubs nor Healing Touch therapy sessions.

There was not ever during his five month hospital stay any pastoral visitations. No spiritual counsellors came to calm my uncle's crescendo of fear, unhappiness and hopelessness. No one made it easier for him to let go.

The only social worker involvement was to arrange paperwork around the Freedom of Information Act.

My uncle entered the hospital not ever going to be well again. He couldn't be fixed. He was not going to become more attractive. And so, he was not a high priority. Within the hospital he was never welcomed, accepted nor particularly cared for -- it was a terrible void.

He needed something better. We need something better.

We need quiet places, filled with caring staff who are respected by their administrators. That way respectful conduct will filter down. We need to create sufficient hospice beds for everyone, not just a fortunate few.

Some better way to experience end-of-life than my uncle's experience exists -- just not in British Columbia's hospitals.

1 comment:

Susan said...

That needed to be said. Thank you for saying it. British Columbia isn't the only place where it's a problem. While I am happy that Canada has a medical system that is available to everyone, budgets have been skimmed to the point where the care isn't great for anyone. I don't blame the nurses who are overworked and doing the best that they can with their patient loads. The blame needs to fall on the administrators and politicians. As we baby-boomers age, this problem is only going to get worse unless there are changes.