EPISODE 022: Quality of Life Over Quantity - How Hospice Helps and What Death is Like from a Nurse's Perspective

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In this week’s episode, Fran Cooper van Allen starts by telling us what makes her happiest in life and how she approaches life with a grateful heart. She’s a semi-retired hospice nurse with nearly 20 years of experience. She’s currently a caregiver for the elderly. Fran explores how our society handles aging and death and the impact it has on our elderly.

In this candid conversation, Fran then explains what hospice is and why its important. She explains the timeline of care based on regulations and drills down into the four types of care available. Not only does Fran educate us about the benefits of hospice, but she really opens up about what it like when someone actively dies.

Listen in to not only learn about why hospice is important, ranging from preparing the patient and family for the death to higher quality of life to decreased healthcare costs, but also to hear Fran’s personal accounts of helping patients pass, her own grief on the job, and witnessing miraculous occurrences at the time of death. 

(And you’ll definitely want to hear about Fran’s unicorn onesie.) 


LISTEN



HIGHLIGHTS

  • Family, friends, nature, animals, and music make Fran the happiest.

  • How Fran got into hospice and how her career evolved.

  • Fran is currently developing a training program for hospice caregivers and family and friends of those with dementia. 

  • Hospice as a tough calling, but a special calling.

  • How our society handles aging - “I feel we are in denial of aging as a culture.”

  • Why the elderly unfortunately get “shoved away.”

  • “The separation from a loved one is terrifying to a lot of people.”

  • Society taking advantage of grief at the time of death - high funeral costs.

  • What is hospice care and why its beneficial. 

  • The four levels of care: routine home care, continuous care, general in-patient care, and respite care. 

  • The well-rounded hospice team make up to add to the quality of life to the dying person: Doctor, RN, LPN, chaplain, social worker, volunteers.

  • Bereavement care for the family. 

  • Respite for the family allows family caretakers to take a rest.

  • What “actively dying” is.

  • Why someone would have to go to an in-patient unit instead of staying on home care.

  • “The goal is comfort and not cure.”

  • How hospice should be used. 

  • Focusing on the quality of life versus quantity.

  • How to know when its time to call hospice. 

  • How some doctors handle death and dying.

  • What qualifies a patient for hospice. 

  • Fran’s patient’s have ranged in age from newborn to 107.

  • Coping with the loss of patients.

  • How hospice and Fran helps families cope with the loss. 

  • Fran on what hospice has taught her: “We’re more alike than we’re different.”

  • A day in the life of a hospice nurse - painting a picture of tasks.

  • the flexiblity required of a hospice nurse.

  • The first time Fran had to attend a death. 

  • “We don’t just go away and go into nothing. We go to a better place.”

  • “Death and dying to me is a really sacred thing.”

  • “We choose the minute that we leave.”

  • “You can almost see when the soul…leaves the body. It’s always peaceful. It’s always holy, and spiritual, and beautiful.”

  • What happens if you don’t have an advanced directive (living will).


TAKE AWAYS

  • Have an advanced directive. 

  • Have someone you trust, who will carry out your wishes, be your power of attorney for healthcare. For example, if you don’t want life sustaining measures such as CPR, let somebody know and write it down.

  • Talking about what you want at the end of life before you become ill or die is very important. It helps your family to have a sense of comfort and a road map to follow when they’re in deep grief. 

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