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Voices for Safer Care

Insights from the Armstrong Institute

Voices for Safer Care Home end of life care

end of life care

Tuck someone in today

One of my colleagues, Nancy, recently shared a surprising experience that she had with her son—one of four children—as she was getting ready to send him off to college. The night before he left, this strapping, six-foot-tall man, who plays football and lacrosse, made an unusual request: He asked his mom to tuck him in to bed. When he returned home for a long weekend, he again wanted to be tucked in.

Nancy and I talked about what it felt like to be tucked in: You felt safe and protected, warm and loved. It is a great feeling and we all need it.

“Tucking others in” is a beautiful image of the care that is often lacking in health care. I remember a discussion with a family about limiting care of one of their loved ones. The patient, Paul, was 50 years old with metastatic cancer. He was now septic, on a ventilator and unable to communicate. We were meeting with his wife, brother and sister in-law. It was difficult for them to accept that he was dying.

We sat down in a messy conference room crowded with notebooks, the walls covered in reminders to staff. I opened the conversation by asking if they could tell me what Paul was like. I hadn't had the chance to get to know him. All of their eyes lit up, and they told me how he loved to drive around the country to see Bruce Springsteen concerts. He was a ‘60s hippie who never changed. They described his hearty laugh and how he loved to play jokes on people.

I thanked them, and they thanked me for trying to understand Paul as a person. I then asked what they understood about Paul’s prognosis. We talked about what Paul would want done in this situation. The wife and brother looked at each other. Their answer: Paul would want to withdraw life support with Bruce Springsteen playing loudly and the rest of us tailgating in his hospital room.Read More »Tuck someone in today