Monday, July 6, 2009

Hospice Worker Strategies When Families Expect Miracles

The terminally ill and their families often expect miracles. What can hospice workers do when families firmly hope for miraculous recoveries of dying patients? Doctors are particularly challenged when families continue to speak of divine intervention after all earthly procedures have failed. Respect for the spirituality and religions of others is important during healthcare treatment. Knowing how to walk that fine line of balance can weigh heavily on the quality of death journeys.

Research by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, USA has provided a practical approach to this concern that allows families' beliefs in miracle healings to coexist with practices of good medicine. The following strategies applied to meet the unique needs of families are involved:

1) Exploring the meaning and significance of miracles

2) Providing balanced, nonargumentative responses to families' expectations of miracles

3) Negotiating patient-centered compromises while demonstrating respect for families' spirituality and doing what is medically appropriate.

Using these strategies can provide a means for hospice workers to maintain good relationships with families expecting miracles while medical practices are implemented. Patients are always the first priority.

This Fox News video clip is an example of why many people believe in miracles, regardless of a medical prognosis. Viewers witness the miracle of Val Thomas, a woman who was technically dead for almost 18 hours after two heart attacks. Rigor mortis had even set in. Yet, she lives!

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
“Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog”

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