Patient Vs. Family Expectations Of Hospice Care

By Mary Lou

My husband and I recently attended the wedding of the daughter of some very good friends. As with many occasions of this nature, you end up meeting someone new. After the name exchange, there is most likely the question, “And what do you do?”

At this particular event, when I introduced myself as working for Hospice of the Red River Valley, I got two very different responses. I suppose that happens to many people, especially if you meet someone from a rival company in a competitive industry. But for me, a negative reaction to where I work is fortunately rather unusual.

The first conversation was with a woman during the social hour at the reception, who praised the care her mother received. She said all the things we are privileged to hear. “You folks did everything she wanted” was her message.

The second conversation was with a woman at dinner whose mother was also cared for by our hospice program. The overall message from her was, “I can’t say I had the same experience as others had.” I am always interested in these comments, because we can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. As she was summing up her concerns, her daughter, who was also seated with us, chimed in, “But Mom, Grandma didn’t want it that way.”

Aha! What the daughter was referring to were her grandmother’s wishes, versus her mother’s. She, the granddaughter, had been at her grandmother’s side more than her mother.

Assumptions and perceptions can really cloud our vision and experience. Reading someone else’s mind would really be a scary thing. We wouldn’t even be able to have a thought to ourselves. But asking and telling can be very reassuring and comforting. It comes down to asking someone what is important to them—and telling others what is important to you. In health care, this can be done through an advanced health care directive.

I don’t know if this grandmother had that document in place, and fortunately she was able to communicate for herself. But, if the mother had known her mother’s wishes, maybe there wouldn’t have been any confusion or disappointment.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email or visit