by Larissa MacFarquhar
The New Yorker, July 11 & 18, 2016
The Threshold is a longish and moving piece follows a hospice nurse on her rounds in Brooklyn. It is worth a close reading. Excerpts follow:
The first modern hospice was founded in 1967, in London, by Cicely Saunders, who was both a doctor and a social worker: she wanted to offer homelike care that aimed to provide comfort and serenity rather than to prolong life. Today roughly twice as many people in America die in hospice as die in hospital.
Hospice believes in caring not only for the patient but also for the family, and tries to address psychological and spiritual needs as well as physical ones.
Whenever Heather entered a patient’s home for the first time, she knew that she was walking into a long, long, complicated story that she understood nothing about, a story that was just then reaching its final crisis. She wanted to care for her patients in a personal way, rather than racing from one task to another, one limb to the next—inserting an I.V. here, drawing blood there, scarcely noticing whose vein she was puncturing or whose arm she was holding. She came to understand that touching itself was important, whether it healed or not; she had not realized this before she became a nurse.