How To Talk To Your Parent About Hospice

photo of a winter sunset

by Kim Keller

Before our dad went into hospice, we met with a hospice nurse and asked for guidance. Our question: Should we tell Dad that he was going into hospice care? To us, hospice meant death, so how could we tell him such a thing without his giving up hope?

The nurse began by reassuring us that the role of hospice was not to invite death or discourage wellness, but simply to provide a peaceful environment, without pain, in which nature could take its course. She told us that some people actually got better with hospice care, and they were able to go home. She encouraged us to be straightforward with our dad, but she acknowledged that some families opted not to tell their loved ones.

Honestly, we probably would’ve opted to not tell him, if we thought we could have gotten away with it. The problem was, the hospice nurses and aides all wore name tags with the word HOSPICE written prominently across the top of the tag. Fooling Dad was impossible. And so we told him, carefully. We told him that he didn’t need to be in a hospital anymore, but that he wasn’t well enough to go home. We were going to move him to a place “run by hospice” and that he could receive his treatments there. But, as delicate as we tried to be, he understood exactly what we meant.

He opened his eyes and grabbed on to us and said with unmistakable clarity, “I’m sorry. I tried. I love you.”

He closed his eyes again, and that was the very last time he spoke with any of us. He seemed almost relieved. Maybe he was just waiting for us to be emotionally ready before he himself could say goodbye. He arrived at hospice the next day and, as the nurse later told us, he said to her: “I’m ready.”

He died about 48 hours later.

8 Responses to “How To Talk To Your Parent About Hospice”

  1. joan says:

    What a beautiful piece! I wish some of the adult children of some of my clients could handle this as well as you did! Hard stuff!!!

    Best, Joan