A layperson’s guide to the end of life.
Windham, a nurse who specializes in end-of-life care, provides a truly important, useful guide to the process of dying. It’s highly accessible yet also detailed and comprehensive: “Families do not know and cannot be expected to know all about hospice,” the author explains, and she attempts to fill that knowledge gap for the average family. On its face, this work is about hospice care as an institution, and it thoroughly covers issues from that angle, including how to choose such care and how to pay for it. However, the author also delves into a range of other subjects. On one end of the spectrum, she discusses emotional, family, and psychological issues related to death, including coping with grief, handling estrangement among family members, and understanding the role of intimacy. At the other end, she tackles such practical but confusing topics as legal paperwork and pain medications. The book’s listing of pharmaceutical treatments for such ailments as coughs, diarrhea, and even hiccups is one example of how this clear, easy guide will be a real help to caregivers. The author urges families to seek out hospice assistance in order to improve the quality of life in a patient’s final weeks: “Almost three-fourths of all terminally ill people die in hospitals alone and afraid,” she notes, “unable to spend their remaining weeks and days in closeness with their spouse.” Hospice, the author asserts, provides an alternative that decreases patient pain and anxiety and assists family members in beginning to grieve. Readers will also find that the author has a very spiritual view of her calling, but it never feels forced—it’s simply part of her own story. Overall, Windham’s approach to care is holistic and hands-on.
A homey, candid, touching, empathic, and invaluable resource for those dealing with the specifics of a loved one’s last days.