At 62 years old, Joe was struggling to care for himself. Joe had end-stage alcoholic cirrhosis, and with his poor diet and heavy drinking, he was frequently falling and in an endless cycle of needing to go to the emergency room. Joe alienated his neighbors, home health aides, and all who tried to care for him. He continued to decline physically and mentally with no one to help him.
Joe’s MJHS Hospice nurse and social worker were able to break through his tough exterior and gain his trust with a combination of humor and compassion. His care team became increasingly concerned that his living situation was unsafe. They consulted with the MJHS Ethics Committee because while they thought he would have the best possible care in a residential facility, Joe was adamant that he wanted to continue living in his own home. It was determined that allowing Joe to live at home was the best way to respect his wishes and honor him as a person.
One night, Joe did have one final fall that resulted in a trip to the emergency room. The following day, he requested a visit from his hospice nurse. Barely conscious, he greeted her with a smile and a weak, “thank you.” He died comfortably later that night. Though his care team was upset he could not die at home, they took comfort knowing they had honored his wish to live his final weeks at home.
At MJHS, we do all we can to honor the values and needs of our patients and their families as they navigate very complicated questions that arise at the end of life. Our medical ethics program helps families struggling because competing priorities make it unclear how to provide the best possible care. We also help isolated patients who cannot make care decisions on their own but have no friends or family to act on their behalf. And we tackle difficult topics to inform policies and provide guidance to clinicians, such as Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) policies and guidance on voluntarily stopping of eating and drinking.
Your gift ensures that we can continue our robust medical ethics program and that everyone we care for lives their final days with compassion, integrity, and respect. Please consider making a gift today to ensure that all patients can continue to receive this thoughtful care.