Death of special patient

  1. Yesterday I walked into work and found that my favorite patient had died. She was 93 years old. Thin and frail, she was one of the nicest, funniest ladies that I have ever had the pleasure of taking care of. She had been a hairdresser in her younger years. Her hobbies were racing cars with her husband and writing poetry. She was such a sweet lady. Her daughter was with her as often as she could be but when she was not there, she always kept her door open because she feared being alone. I told all the staff to go in and sit with her if they have a few minutes so she would not feel alone. She was so much fun to talk to. She was so sharp mentally but slowly dying physically.

    On Thursday she was going down and having more and more trouble breathing, but she insisted that she was going to be going home to a facility that was two blocks away from her daughter. She was looking so forward to living in a facility with other people to talk to and do things with. She was very social.

    When I came in Friday, they were getting ready to take her to the morgue. As I kissed her cheek and gave her a little hug I thought how much I was going to miss her. If there is a heaven, I know she is there, being able to get around and entertaining others with her stories and poetry. It was a special gift to me to have had the pleasure to know her.
  2. 11 Comments

  3. by   MobileNurseSara
    It's so rewarding to get the patients who really make you glad you became a nurse in the first place. One of my biggest loves of nsg is getting the chance to positively impact someones life when they need you most (dying process, traumatic situation, etc).

    If there is a Heaven and she's there, I'm sure she's telling all the people what a wonderful nurse she had to look out for something as "trivial" (as some less compassionate nurses would see it) as her fear of being alone. Good for you!
  4. by   ChristineN
    It sounds like you had a wonderful opportunity to care for a very special lady. I'm not a very emotional person, and I'm sitting her choking back tears reading your story.
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    I'm with you in spirit, Diane. We all have special patients who leave an imprint on our hearts no matter how long or how short their time with us may be; and when they leave us, they take a part of us with them.

    Take the time you need to mourn this patient, then come back refreshed and ready to take on the next's the nursing version of the circle of life. And there will always be a next one, you can be assured of that!

    God bless you for caring so much. I know it hurts, but far better for a nurse to hurt a little than to be unable to feel.
  6. by   BelleKat
    I've met some really dear people and it's true that they take a piece of you with them. If it ever stops hurting then you need to take a break.
  7. by   leslie :-D
    i've had a couple of pts, whose deaths devastated me...
    for sev'l weeks!!
    i couldn't understand my prolonged grief but if i even heard their names, i'd get that 'hurt' betw my brows, as if i were going to cry...again.
    w/ea pt, i tried to distance myself from subsequent pts i had.
    i'd still provide superior care, but i just wouldn't be 'me'....
    who normally dives right in and takes 'em under my wing.
    ultimately, i couldn't be anyone other than myself.

    so yeah, we certainly expose ourselves when allowing our hearts to open up, and dare to care.
    but w/o a doubt, my life has been incredibly touched and blessed, because of these folks who i grew to love.

    trust me, we sooo understand.:icon_hug:

  8. by   SunnyAndrsn
    May she rest in peace. I know how hard it is when one of those special, dear ladies pass on.
  9. by   carlasbizz
    The patient is what makes Nursing rewarding for me. I had some memoriable patiences also. I one patient who was a science teacher. He was still very young 50. He was always talking to me about Chemistry and taking long hikes in the mountains. I even decorated his small space with science and nature things. He eventually died. I will never forget the time I spent with him. Thank you for sharing your story diane277. I know how precious our patients are. I have the heart for this field. I treat every patient as if it was my family member. I lost my mom 2 years ago to cancer. I was told by another Nurse that I am even polite to the patient that are mean to me. I LOVE NURSING.
  10. by   maya13
    Dear All,

    Firstly let me thank you for providing a place to share, read and discuss issues that only other nurses can really understand, it lessens the isolation one can feel when everyone else around them works in different industries and can't full appreciate what it's like to give oneself so much to a role so vital to helping others.

    That said, i too suffered the loss of a very special lady at a long term facility i had been sent to often over these last few months as an agency LPN. This facility has a wonderful array of cultural mixes, particularly from European origin, so each shift I'd exult in saying hello and how are you in many languages which helped boost the therapeutic relationship and encourage confidence and trust with resident's families.

    This particular lady i had bargained with unsuccessfully for many weeks in trying to give her medications, we tried everything from crushing ones that could be, treating them like gifts, even clinking the small medicine cups when it came to taking liquid aperiants as i hoped by sculling my water, this would also encourage her to scull her med. It didn't help that she had a long history of schizophrenia and dementia which made cognition very hard to stabilize. I'd all but given up hope this lady would ever take her meds on time, her behavior also used to offset others nearby causing me to make return trips after the 1700 med pass to try to encourage ingestion after the drama of dinner, family/visitors and a massive med trolley had gone.

    After many weeks of trying, she eventually seemed to warm up to me, it was then i realized, i was simply unfamiliar to her, that was all. A completely legitimate and substantial reason not to take a wad of pills from someone you weren't orientated to. This was obvious when another carer could be seen joking with a very formal Italian man who at times broke into a smile when she would joke with him...she had been working there for many years. That simple logic helped me when it came to encouraging this lady to take her pills, instead of getting worked up at her lag time and informing the charge nurse that i would have to return and re-encourage her to take her pills before psychosis took hold, i would approach this lady very gently, pat her hand or shoulder, kneel down to her level and talk very softly and gently. She would begin talking to me in her broken sometimes unrecognizable sentences but the core message of 'hi hun, how are you''I'm well darling, how are you' i feel would essentially be said. I felt i connected with her even without using proper English, enough for her to take her pills in a very calm, peaceful manner that would result in her symptoms being kept under control and her being calm enough to eat dinner, co-operate with hygiene and get proper sleep.

    A few weeks ago however on an ordinary shift at the facility, the charge nurse went to her area to attend to a wound dressing on another client when she noticed a small raised red area on the lady's left arm. Unable to tell us if she was in pain and not making much sense as usual, the charge RN gave her prn analgesia and informed me that we would continue to monitor her over the shift. The lump swelled to a mass and right before clock off the RN stayed back to call a locum to discuss non emergency transport to the nearest hospital for an X ray. I returned a few days later with the lady wearing a tubi-grip (open sock type bandage that exerts pressure to reduce swelling) and stronger analgesic in her MAR prescribed by her doctor. The lady seemed calm and i made an effort to keep patting her shoulder and non affected hand to let her know we were there and cared. Later that shift an emergency in service on Elder Abuse was called and rumors spread like a wildfire through the halls that our lady in hall 3's arm was a result of rough play :angryfire. This immediately infuriated me, i could not imagine anyone taking advantage and being rough with this already vulnerable defenseless old lady. Although i had seen her yell and at times scream at the carers when they had tried to bring her to the toilet or help her prepare for bed, most of them made sure she was safe and warm and at times left her to the night staff when this lady just refused all care, i.e. it was never forced as it should never be.

    Three weeks later i arrived back at the facility for a shift only to be told during handover that this lady had died the night before. Shocked i carried on my duties, stealing chances to further find out what had happened. The RN told me this lady had refused all her meds as she still sometimes did, and further refused all care. Attempts had been made to encourage ambulation with her 4 wheel frame but again, this lady simply refused. Instead, she started walking either freely (alarming to hear with high falls risk clients) or using furniture. Her last shuffle saw her using an over bed tray (i.e. those sided U desks that can be wheeled in over hospital beds) until the trolley lost balance, toppled and sent her head first onto the floor. Whether she died from cranial or sub-dural injuries, i wasn't told. There was huge emphasis on how hard staff tried to get her to use her walking aide when she wanted to ambulate and i do believe this, but this lady being her, only for the short time i knew her and with evidence and having witnessed stubborn independence most elderly prefer, nothing could have stopped her from wanting to get up and walk around by herself.

    it could be the small success in getting this lady to finally become familiar with me enough to take her meds for me before she died, or that i did feel some calm connection with her enough to see through her diagnosis and see a very sweet lady trapped by her symptoms, or how sad i felt when her funeral arrangements were carried out by a local charity as i was told family members were either unknown or unreachable. Apparently only 4 staff attended who confirmed that they had felt like family to this woman and would missed just as much.

    Since learning of her death and circumstances surrounding, i have decided to take 2 weeks off, entertaining the idea of travel or distracting myself with other short courses. Part of me feels that i have lost someone too, although having only known her for a short time, another still feels enraged that Elder Abuse could have contributed to her initial injuries perhaps having compromised her health leading to her decline, another feels frozen in fear that one day, that lady could be me, unable to speak for myself, without any family to deliver my eulogy (r.ships with my family are strained, but that's another story) and left to the faith that others would take my best interests to heart (despite clearly some of whom have not in this case).

    Thanks again for the chance to vent here, i know i need to find other ways of coping, or find a way to release how i feel about this all. It is a comfort to know caring enough is a good thing, but maybe the lines of definition need to be redrawn. I'm open to suggestions.
  11. by   nustick
    I believe that caring for someone throughout their death process is an honor. I am asked frequently in oncology/hospice, how do you not get depressed? I know that I have been given the honor of spending the someone's last few days alive. In that time I have learned the most beautiful life lessons from my dying patients. I have cried in a patients room by myself and with the patients families.
    I am always sad they are gone but happy they are free after they have fought so long and hard!
    It is true, the day you heart is not touched by your patients is the day you need to take a break from nursing.
    Hang in there!
  12. by   Roy Fokker
    Thanks for sharing Diane.

    Reminds me of Ms. "S".
    If I had 1/10 th the courage to live life like the way Ms. "S" faced her own coming mortality; I'll be a much better person...

    Aye. She taught me a lot, Ms. "S" did. Though we'd know each other but for a few weeks.
    Lessons no book nor class nor school could ever teach.

    And I'll never forget her or her spirit...

    - Roy
  13. by   nustick

    Your Ms. S makes me think of my special ones too. Isn't it true that the patients can touch you and change you forever without even trying. K made me value my youth and health, M made me value my family and my love for life, G made me value the ability to make the best out of the worst. When I am having a bad day I think of how they handle their worst days like the beautiful spirits they are now, then I try to do what they would have done!