Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hospice Nursing and Lessons in Parenting

We all know, as parents, that the days are long but the years pass quickly. Any parent has had a myriad of people remind them to enjoy the moments when your children are young because they pass so quickly. I imagine the reason that these words are so often spoken is because they are true, if over spoken.

I realized as soon as my first child was born 14 years ago that it was true. It seemed as if he would grow before my very eyes in that first year. However, as I added two more children to the mix the days seem to pass with an ever faster and alarming speed, I imagine due to the busy days of chasing after three children and shuttling them all to their activities.

The largest revelation for me was not in my own experiences but in watching my elderly hospice patients. Yes, observing the end of life had many lessons for me about the middle of my life.

Most of my nursing career has been in pediatrics, but there was a brief year and a half span where I gave hospice nursing a try. It had been something I'd wanted to try since nursing school and the perfect opportunity presented itself and I went for it. Hospice nursing was a temporary career turn for me, but the life lessons were forever imprinted on my heart.

Several of my elderly hospice patients were lost in a world all their own and no longer recognized themselves in their current form nor their family members. What was very profound for me was that nearly all of the women in this state that I cared for found themselves lost back in the days of their early motherhood, many of them carrying around baby dolls that they were convinced were real and would spend most of their waking hours caring for the dolls. I asked a staff nurse at one nursing home I was working at why she thought they all became lost in the same imaginary world. I remember this old, battle-ax of a nurse tilting her head at me as though she couldn't believe the question and replying, "Why honey, why wouldn't someone want to be a mother again? Those were the happiest days of their life." I was immediately struck with reflection into my own life, the frantically busy and sleep deprived life that was mine when I wasn't wearing my nurse's badge. I knew with every ounce of my soul that I was in the midst of the best days of my life and had not realized it until this moment. 

A staff member at one nursing home had a drawer of baby dolls that she would give to any woman who was comforted by this. She told me that she had found that women who had been mothers could not bear to be without someone to care for and if these plastic dolls brought them peace in their final days, who were we decide that it was a strange thing for a grown woman to tote around. Her observation was that the woman who lost themselves in this imaginary world often died in peace, happy to relive the long days of caring for their babies.

At the end of my shift I would go home to my children and I realized that I had a renewed sense of myself as a mother and how important these days were to me- not only now but for forever. I knew that I needed to squeeze out every moment of this time as well as I possibly could and the memories of these years, busy and exhausted as they are, will be looked back onto for the rest of my life.

I am exhausted. Weary to the bone most days and collapse into my bed at the end of the night with the exhaustion of one who has run a marathon. It is often hard. It is also blissful. I am harvesting as much bliss as I can out of every day in my home full of children. I can thank those women in the nursing home for the reminder of just how lovely these days are, even when I am bone tired and worried.

These are the halcyon days of my life. I must make memories to sustain myself for the years when my home is not so full. I am so blessed to have been given the gift of a house full of love- I will not waste this time.

Live every moment, Lovelies. This life is short and full of wonder.


  1. I work in the medical field, geriatrics is where my concentration is. I have worked with good days, bad days, behaviors and yes death. I have many stories to share as I am sure you do to
    come see us at

  2. This is a very interesting perspective and I can see how it is true. When my grandpa passed he kept referring to me as my grandma's name, I was close to the age they would have been when my aunts and uncle were born.

  3. Nothing grows you up faster than becoming your mother's mother.