#WATWB: Snowballs and Hospice

From Wikipedia:

Hospice care is a type of care and philosophy of care that focuses on the palliation of a chronically ill, terminally ill or seriously ill patient’s pain and symptoms, and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs. In Western society, the concept of hospice has been evolving in Europe since the 11th century. The modern concept of hospice includes palliative care for the incurably ill given in such institutions as hospitals or nursing homes, but also care provided to those who would rather spend their last months and days of life in their own homes. The first modern hospice care was created by Cicely Saunders in 1967.

Mom has been in hospice since May of this year, after suffering two mini strokes. While she’s not actively dying, mom is receiving wonderful care from the hospice nurse, the chaplain and the social worker. I’ve met with and talked to all three at one point and the knowledge that these awesome people are sharing love with mom in her care, and keeping an extra careful eye on her, has given me peace of mind.

It is, therefore, my subject of this month’s We are the World Blogfest.

I have chosen to share the story of B.J. Miller and Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco.

B.J. Miller is a graduate of Princeton, a palliative care doctor and a triple amputee. In this TED Talk, he shares insights of hospice, snowballs, life and health care.

“We need to lift our sights on well-being, that life and health and health care can become about making life more wonderful rather than less horrible.”

The New York Times also published an article about B.J. Miller and the Zen Hospice Project.

“One Man’s Quest to Change the Way we Die” is a long read, but one that kept me mesmerized with the story of B.J. Miller’s accident while in college; his recovery and return to Princeton; his work at UCSF and as executive director at Zen Hospice; the story of his friend, Randy Sloan, who died at a very young age of cancer; and of Zen Guest House and its volunteers.

“The volunteers are ordinary people: Retired Macy’s Executives, social workers, bakers, underemployed Millennials or kibitzing empty-nesters. Many are practicing Buddhists. Many are not (Miller isn’t). But Buddhism informs their training. There’s an emphasis on accepting suffering, on not getting tripped up by one’s own discomfort around it. You train people not to run away from hard things, not to run away from the suffering of others, Miller explained. This liberates residents to feel whatever they’re going to feel in their final days, even to fall apart.”

watw-turquoise-badge-275-x241-whiteThe “We are the World” Blogfest is in its eighth month of a heartfelt journey. This blogfest’s goal is to spread the message of light, hope and love in today’s world. We are challenging all participants to share the positive side of humanity. This month’s co-hosts, Guilie Castillo, Belinda McGrath Witzenhausen, Shilpa Garg, Sylvia McGrath,  and Mary J Giese , welcome participants and encourage all to join in during future months. #WATWB is a blog hop on the last Friday of every month. Click HERE to check out the intention and rules of the blogfest and feel free to sign up at any time. You are always welcome!

Please SIGN UP for WE ARE THE WORLD BLOGFEST in the linky list that opens up in a new window:

Click HERE to be part of the Light.


45 responses to #WATWB: Snowballs and Hospice

  1. Dan Antion says:

    Both my sister-in-law and my mom died while in hospice. The care they received kept them comfortable in their final hours. My sister-in-law (Huntington’s disease) received in-home hospice care for several years before becoming so sick that she was transferred to the hospice center. The workers showed remarkable dedication and compassion. Thanks for calling attention to their service (and good luck to your mom).

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I imagine there are positive stories all over the world of hospice care and the wonderful people that attend to those who need their help. Like your mom and sister-in-law. I loved Miller’s story and take on making people comfortable near end of life. Everyone should be able to die with this type of dignity and love.

  2. Mary, I watched the video and read that article, it was long but very informative. I think Dr. Miller’s mission to re-design how we see the end-of-life issues is a worthy one. I hope he is able to see it through to a better future. Thank you so much for sharing and for being a part of #WATWB

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Lynn, thanks for taking the time to read the long article. I found it fascinating. I love how they train volunteers and staff based on zen philosophy to guide caregivers in a more accepting and peaceful manner. It’s how the sick and dying should be treated.

  3. This is such a beautiful thing… To “train people not to run away from hard things, not to run away from the suffering of others”—such a powerful takeaway. At the beginning of the year an acquaintance of ours was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, so palliative care was the only option available. Beyond the tragedy of having his life cut so short (he was in his early fifties), it was harrowing to see how many people shied away from interacting with him, and how the few that did stay around spent so much energy dancing around the fact that, yes, death was indeed imminent. In Western culture death is still quite a taboo, which makes no sense: it’s inevitable, it happens to all of us. It’s truly the most natural thing in the world. Why should we treat it like a perversion, something to never be discussed? In the end, all that does is ostracize the sick and the dying, which—of course—adds, absolutely pointlessly, to the suffering they’re already going through. Let’s hope Miller’s example reaches far and wide. Thank you for sharing!
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter (October co-host)

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Guilie, what you quoted at the beginning of your comment also stood out for me. In having to care for elderly parents,seeing others in the assisted living facility, and having a friend recently pass from cancer, it has made me less afraid to be around the suffering of others. I know it’s tough…I had a difficult time visiting my friend Sue just days before her passing…but it gave me a sense of peace amid the tears of loss. I’m sorry your friend didn’t have more people who could surround him with fearless love in his final days. If they only knew how much it would have mattered to him. Sue’s family was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection shown her in the final weeks and that is something I wish for everyone. What Mr. Miller has done with the Zen Hospice Project is a model to be shared around the world.

  4. Peter Nena says:

    People like Miller are truly the wheels that keep humanity spinning. A heart brimming with love. Thank you for sharing this story. And thank you also for cohosting the #WATWB.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      So correct, Peter. Humanity could use a few more B.J. Millers in the world. Loving and caring for others, no matter their circumstance, is what the world needs at this moment in time. But I think you already know that. Be safe and I’ll keep the people of Kenya in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. joey says:

    I watch TED while I treadmill, so I’ve seen this one, and not too long after my father passed in hospice. I am so glad he had the transition he did, and I hope your mother is being treated with compassionate, gentle care as well.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Mom has a wonderful hospice team. They are all so compassionate. The nurse gives mom kisses and rubs her back and the chaplain prays with and sings to mom. It makes my heart happy to know that she is getting this extra care and love.

  6. Joanne Sisco says:

    In spite of what Miller says that these are ordinary people, they’re not. It takes a very special individual to provide thoughtful care for those in their final days. It matters to those in need and also their loved ones.
    I love the way Peter Nena said it … they are the wheels that keep humanity spinning 💕

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I so agree, Joanne, that the people of hospice are not ordinary people. It takes a special heart and so much compassion. They have a special place in this world and I’m not sure what we would do without them.

  7. Shilpa Garg says:

    Hats off to the doctors and volunteers in hospice and palliative care who provide such selfless, compassionate and tireless support to the terminally ill. Their work is truly awe-inspiring. Thanks for sharing this story, Mary!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome, Shilpa. I have always admired those who care for the sick and dying. They are often underappreciated, so I wanted to bring attention to them and the good work that they do in their community.

  8. Ally Bean says:

    My mother died in hospice care, although in the small town she lived in there was no building to go to. I had to care for her by myself in her home with support from the hospice workers. I cannot say enough good things about those workers, and am pleased that now the topic of how we care for those who are actively dying is more mainstream than it was 20 years ago when I was dealing with it. Great contribution to #WATWB.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Yes, much has changed in health care and hospice in the last 20 years. It is a good thing that people like Mr. Miller are talking about hospice and taking action to make it centered on the patients as humans in need of love and attention.

  9. Emily Bloomquist says:

    I read the article (long but worth the time) and will watch the video over the weekend. Zen Hospice sounds like a beautiful environment full of great volunteers. My grandmother had hospice care in her home as my Mom and aunts rotated who slept at her house. Without hospice as an option, she would have had to move to a nursing home. I am so thankful for hospice workers in general and those in Mr. Millers Zen Hospice in particular for what they do for patients and families. Thanks for sharing this powerful story with us, Mary.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome, Emily. I cannot overstate enough how much the hospice people have meant to mom and I and the care they are providing. I wish everyone had hospice available for themselves or family members. It truly is a blessing.

  10. What an important and powerful story. I have great gratitude for both the availability of hospice services and for the workers providing care and support during what is without question a challenging time. Thanks for sharing this story, and I’m glad hospice is there for your mom and providing you with some peace of mind as well.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I share your gratitude, Deborah, for hospice and in knowing that there will be people who deeply care next to mom when her final days come.

  11. pjlazos says:

    Love the quote about health care making life more wonderful instead of less horrible. We have to get our crap together here in the U.S. with health care in a way that fosters health and wellbeing rather than just leaves us maintaining and dependent on drugs.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I agree with you about being dependent on drugs for health. Interestingly enough, they have taken mom off her blood pressure and diabetes medications since entering hopice and she’s doing fine! It makes me wonder how much unnecessary medication is prescribed for people in this country. But, then, that’s another story for another day.

  12. datmama4 says:

    I had the privilege of being with my favorite aunt (who practically raised me) during her long months of hospice care. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything in the world.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      It’s hard to let our loved ones go, but you had the opportunity to spend time with your aunt, hold her hand, tell her you love her, and have special moments before she passed. Those had to be good days.

  13. G Angela says:

    I heard of hospice services and a lot of persons who need palliative care are put in these places and they are helped to die in dignity and their last desires are fulfilled. Just few years ago we had one cancer patient in the extended family and he was kept in hospice, David my husband used to be regular in visiting him and was with him till the last day of his life; The video is enlightening and very intresting, I like the statement he makes on how institutions are so much disease oriented…and how important it is to lift “our sights on well-being. Thank you for sharing your post as well as the video.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I’m very at ease that my mom will die with dignity and love. It means a lot to me. I also picked up on the statement of setting sights on well-being. I would like to see a hospital and its doctors advocate for change in how they treat patients and provide care. We’ve made great advancements in the medical field, but still have a long way to go in treating root causes of disease and illness.

  14. Susan Scott says:

    O my, Mary, thank you for this extraordinary share – I was gripped from the first sentence of it. I’ve bookmarked to definitely read again. Each paragraph was very powerful. I hope this initiative gets shared far and wide. It is SO valuable, on so many levels. Thank you,it was a profound read. Such a perfect contribution to the #WATWB. I have F’B it – and will tweet .. . and will attempt to forward it via other media – it is such a must read ….

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Susan, thank you for proactively sharing this post and the article. I was concerned that people would not read due to its length, but I was like you – gripped from paragraph to paragraph. I would love to meet B.J. Miller to shake his hand (or give him a hug) and tell him how much this means to families of hospice patients and the patients themselves. I can only hope that when it’s my time, I will have that same kind of care in my final days.

      • Susan Scott says:

        Thanks Mary – I meant to say also about your Mom … and good to hear that she is well cared for and loved. I was a hospice volunteer many years ago. In fact on 11th September 2001 I was preparing to leave home for my evening shift, when the news came .. I saw the television coverage of those planes – but just to note that the date makes it 16 ago when I was actively involved. I was a volunteer for a few years. This article has made me think about maybe going back to that – but as I said in earlier comment, it is so profound on many many levels … thank you again 🙂

  15. What an incredible story this is! God give strength to your mother and to your family. And to this man, all the luck and fortitude in the world so he can help others. Some people are themselves disadvantaged, but nothing deters them from reaching out to others and being of help and value to the society, and Miller is one such man, and so are you, for sharing this with us. Thank you so much!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Pradita, thanks for stopping by and reading about this amazing man and his philosophies. Miller could have easily given up after his accident, but instead he continued his studies and became light and peace to the terminally ill in San Francisco. Yes, God bless him and the people of Zen Hospice.

  16. Aunt Beulah says:

    Thank you for this. After seeing the difference hospice made for my father as he died, I joined the volunteer board of a local organization that provides hospice in our area. Hospice is a godsend. Thank you for spreading the word about the compassionate care they provide which allows patients to retain their dignity always and to make decisions about their care as long as possible.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thank you so much for being involved in hospice in your community. Hospice is so important to those who need comfort in their final days and it’s the staff, nurses, doctors and volunteers that make it happen.

  17. curtisbausse says:

    Clearly an exceptional man who’s pointing the way that could and should become more widespread. The Zen aspect is evident, but it doesn’t need years of training, just a shift in approach and understanding, away from the semi-denial surrounding death and towards acceptance and straightforwardness. An important story for us all there. Thank you.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I agree Curtis. Miller is an exceptional man and doctor whose ideas and methodology are an example to the rest of Western medicine. Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

  18. Such a touching post and Miller makes some interesting points. I have had quite a few friends and family members who have been in hospice care, primarily due to cancer. It takes such a special type of person to work there and it always amazes me how most manage to help both the patient and family find a sense of peace. Thank you so much for sharing this and for being part of #WATWB.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Belinda, I am sorry for the friends and family members you have lost to cancer. I hope they all had kind and compassionate care givers like those at Zen Guest House to lead them peacefully to their final rest.

      • Thanks….Yes, they did have great staff. I have yet to see anyone find fault with the hospices I’ve known. I think most people who work at them really have a level of compassion that is above what I’ve seen from hospitals in general. I think they have to care about their job in order to do it as well as they do. I certainly didn’t get the feeling they just did it for a paycheck… but more for a strong desire to make a difference and help others. I guess I have been blessed to have that type of experience.

  19. simonfalk28 says:

    Mary, this is a great post. With ageing populations, debilitating health conditions (from time to time I visit a lady with Huntington’s Disease) and terminal illnesses, these posts become ever more relevant. It’s even more poignant with a loved one, like your dear Mom. I also really like the quote you’ve included from Miller “We need to lift our sights on well-being, that life and health and health care can become about making life more wonderful rather than less horrible.”

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks for your comments, Simon. Mom included, I hope everyone has a more wonderful end of life and is blessed by a doctor like Miller.

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