By John J. Tassoni, Jr.
There are many ways to deal with the loss of a person we love, but no matter how old or how sick the loved one is, it’s always a very difficult process. We often hear about the five stages of grief and loss, from denial to acceptance. I have learned that people who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or even experience all of them.
I learned this firsthand when my father passed away this past April and my three siblings and I were dealing with the sorrow and pain of that loss. We have all heard the term end-of-life care and may think we know what it means and what our loved one’s wishes are. And for the most part, we probably do. But it’s such a difficult and painful topic, most families probably don’t fully discuss it until they are actually facing the loss. I wrote about this in my October 2017 issue and the Projo, titled “From heartbreak comes Hope” – my opinion editorial.
In honor of my dad, I needed to somehow use my unimaginable sorrow to become a tireless advocate for communication at end-of-life, compelled to do all I could to make care for patients and support for families the best they can be. Clinicians and social workers, hospitals and hospice organizations can assist the family by making time for frequent and open discussion about what’s best for the patient and what they believe the patient wanted. Families experience so many emotions and memories when facing a loved one’s imminent death that it’s difficult for them to think of anything but the pain and love. Families need all the facts, and they need help to assess the patient’s comfort and determine the best immediate course of action.
To The Miriam Hospital, where my father passed away, and to Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island, my family and I made several suggestions about communicating with families. Both organizations were supportive. I applaud them and hope to help them handle this challenging aspect of care in a way that’s appropriate to each family and each situation, knowing that none is exactly like any other. We can always do things better, and it is only through a system of total transparency that we can move forward in a way that makes care and support better for those who follow.
The health care system today is very complex, you need to be your own advocate, always ask for a second opinion, do your homework, ask questions, never take NO for an answer.
If I can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to call me at our office.