Lesson in palliative care

An interesting bedside vigil appeared out of nowhere today.  A call after mass at St Paul Shrine prompted a visit to a home patient being cared for by her son, his wife, and a daughter.  Overall, it was a pleasant four hour visit with an engaging Italian family, socializing with quality people.  The son and daughter provided initial conversation, informing me of the life of their mother.  I perceived it to be a comfort to their unresponsive mother.  They are Catholics so the receiving of the Eucharist in conjunction with the anointing of the sick, Viaticum, was discussed.  The siblings complained how difficult it was to get a priest to perform the sacrament.  It made me realize I should stop by St Paschal Baylon and discuss matters with the Congregation of the Blessed Securement.  I must become familiar with priest I can call on and recommend to others.  I also need to discuss with them the process of becoming a Eucharistic minister.  It was edifying to encounter Catholics who were not the strongest in the pursuit of their faith.  Italian in descent, the Church is important to them, yet their practice is random.  It made me realize I should be better prepared for future volunteering encounters with Catholics.  Overall, I saw the vigil as a training session.  I prayed with the patient when left alone with her, witnessing her open her eyes within an odd moment.  I fell asleep during my Rosary, a thing that happens to me when praying with patients.  This does not happen when I pray alone before the Eucharist.  I get very tired and sleepy when praying with patients, struggling mightily to stay awake.  As I woke, my eyes were sighted upon the patient, realizing her eyes were open.  Immediately, I apologized to her for falling asleep. Silently, I hoped I wasn’t snoring for some people say I snore horribly.  I would hate to think my snoring caused her to wake.  The woman started rustling around in bed.  Her son came in remarking it was the most active she had been in sometime.  She pulled and tugged at her blankets, while staring at me.  I think a stranger in her room caught her off guard.  Her daughter-in-law, a nurse wearing her uniform, returning from work, arrived, providing proficient care.  I am convinced the daughter-in-law was presented for the witnessing of high quality nursing care.  Her soft voice, and gentle disposition, soothed immensely.  It was obvious her mother-in-law relaxed under her tender, confident, and compassionately skilled care.  She turned the woman, utilizing a blanket for the turning, checking her diapers, fixing everything about the positioning of the woman in order to bring maximum comfort.  The woman was a very good experienced nurse.  It was obvious.  She talked softly to her mother-in-law the whole time tending to her.  Then for over two hours husband and wife talked with me, mostly about palliative care.  They also cared for the woman’s husband when he passed in 2004.  The son told many entertaining stories about his father when he was sick.  His father, an Italian hulk, over six foot five and two hundred and fifty pounds, became a voracious eater when he came to live with them.  He was not supposed to move about, yet he continually discovered his father gorging in the kitchen.  His father was always trying to get in the kitchen.  His favorite story was the time he found him stuffing his face, only to be shocked by his mammoth father falling backwards out of control.  He managed to get behind and underneath his father, allowing his father to fall upon him.  Both ended up in a pile upon the floor.  He screamed at his father, ‘Now how the hell am I going to get you up’.  His father laughed uproariously, enjoying the whole affair.  The man complimented his father’s maintaining of a sense of humor throughout his passing.  I listened closely to the couples caretaking advice and experiences.  It was cute that their mother started snoring loudly during the end of my stay.  I am convinced the casual friendly conversation, centered around her—her bed between myself and her family—brought comfort to her.  Literally, she was in the middle of the conversation.  Speaking with the nurse, I determined I want to become a certified nursing aid, able to put my hands on the patients.  I want to bathe and clean them.  Change their diapers.  Fix their beds for them.  Assist them in moving about in bed.  I want to be able to put my hands on the patients.  My last patient, I would have been honored to cleanse and physically care for.  A final note on today’s vigil.  The family owned a dog and a cat.  The dog, a striking border collie and the cat, a thick furred black and white arrogant male, loitered about the patient’s room.  I found it interesting.  The Border Collie, possessing intelligent eyes, gently moved about the woman’s bed, while the cat would disappear underneath her bed.  Her son said both animals tended to watch over his mother.  Overall, I felt once again, I was the one being tendered to–the one being shown what it was to care for the dying.



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