Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I have a new hospice patient who I visited the other day. She was being taken care of at home by her daughter, who was her primary caregiver. It was an older house, in one of Seattle's neighborhoods that is slowly being taken over by wealthy, young families, although there are still a few older holdouts who you know have been there since they started their families. It looked like it had been a lovely house at one time, but there hadn't been the time and money lately to take care of it. Wallpaper in patterns not seen since the sixties peeled slightly from the walls. The ceiling showed several large water stains and some crumbling and curtains and blinds were old and dusty. For all that, however, the room where my patient lay on her hospital bed was clean and cozy, and as many things that would add to the comfort of the patient were grouped around the bed.

The patient's daughter let me in and gave me a hug, even though we had only just met. She was confused at first about my purpose, trying to make me comfortable, or fetch me a coffee, or entertain me. I assured her repeatedly that I was there for her, there to help her and give her a little respite from the 24-hour care. And I could tell that even though I saw pictures of a man I took to be her brother, that she was it, she was the one on the front lines with her mother, there all the time. And she was so lovely with her mother, talking to her, asking if she needed anything, stroking her head gently. It was a lesson to me again about care and compassion.

And as I sat there next to the hospital bed, keeping the patient company quietly, looking around the room, I took in all the evidence of little money. A run down house, no in-home care, old fixtures and furnishings. I gave thanks fervently yet again for the fact that Dad had plenty of money and we could afford, not only to get him top-notch care, but also to be, in a sense, removed from the situation. We have enough and more than enough to do everything that Dad's illness requires.

I was able to get Dad in-home, 24-hour care so he could stay in his home, and was now able to pay someone to perform 24-hour care now. I'm so grateful-it could have just as easily been me performing the feats this woman was performing for her mother. It could just have easily been me on the front line, in a crumbling house, responsible first-hand for care, instead of at a remove. It made me admire this daughter, and all others like her, who could do first-hand with such love and compassion what I could only do remotely.


  1. Love to read this type of article. Very interesting and make my mood. Thanks to share with us.

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  2. A moving piece... I know the front line of Care Giving; I still don't know how I have been able to do it. I wish I could have afforded remote care for my mom.