Thank you for sharing your story.
The stories we share are a great comfort to know we’re not alone in the care of our aging loved ones.
— Wendy Marsh Via Nurse.com
EOS touches nurses’ hearts T ank you for publishing the eloquently
written End of Shift article, “Patients’ names: Mom and Dad” (Nurse.com/Article/EOS/
Mom-and-Dad), by Patty Healey Yaniz, RN. When my dad became ill, my family looked to me for advice and for his care. As the family RN, it seemed to be the natural course of how things should go. And because I loved my father, I willingly took his care on. But juggling the hats of nurse and daughter can be very diffi cult and confl icting. Your heart and mind are sometimes at war with each other. Yaniz captured what I have been trying to convey to my family about my experience. Since my dad’s passing, I have come to terms with the experience, but only after much soul searching and refl ection. T is article is yet one more piece of my grief puzzle solved and explained so well.
— MaryEllen Mehler, RN Port Republic, N.J.
Wow. Much to my surprise and delight the article was exactly what I was going through at that very moment. Yaniz is exactly right. It’s hard to know which road to take when it’s your parents at stake. Unfortunately, I’m fi nding I am meeting more resistance from other healthcare providers as I advocate for my father who is very ill. I’m so frustrated, as I want to be a daughter. But the blatant mistakes I’m seeing, as an experienced RN, make me fear for his care and I’m unable to personally care for him. Yaniz is not alone;
there are many of us going through the exact same thing. I thank you for this article and the shedding of necessary tears.
— Lisa M Bonacquisti, RN Springfi eld, Penn.
I read this article with tears streaming down my face. T irteen years ago my mom was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lym- phoma, and the prognosis was poor. My mom was an advance practice nurse; I followed in her footsteps. She made me promise not to have aggressive or heroic treatments done. But how do I explain her wishes to my dad and siblings? She asked me to take her home, as she had no intentions of dying in the hos- pital. With a heavy heart, I fl ew home and did as she requested. For the next 72 hours, I did not know where the boundaries of daughter and nurse began or ended. I gave her the best care I knew how and was also the daughter who sat by her bedside until the fi nal hour letting her know how much I will always carry her in my heart. It is not an easy role when your patients are mom and dad.
— Sheena Strudwick, CRNP-A, WCC, CORN Silver Spring, Md.
I love being the nurse in residence for neigh- bors with easy-to-answer medical questions. But I also wore the family nurse hat when my parents were ill and had to help make the same decisions for them, as well as for a few dear friends. After one particularly diffi cult loss of a friend from cancer and helping her
husband and family travel that path, I fell ill and slept for 40 hours. T at made me aware that I have to take care of myself also and allow myself time to grieve these losses — easy to say, very hard to do. Many years later, I still am overcome occasionally with grief and the responsibility I shouldered, but it was an incredible gift.
— Catherine C. Orgain, RN Santa Cruz, Calif.
T e article left me sobbing. It was the fi rst time since both of my parents passed that I broke down and really cried. I, too, am the nurse in our family. It’s been both a blessing and a curse. My father died in 2013 and my mother in 2015. I was with them both as their long struggles ended. I was relieved and heartbroken with both. My two sisters were supportive but looked to me to make the important medical decisions and give them care. I’ll always be grateful to have been a nurse and to be there for my parents, but I’ve had a hard time wondering if I did all I could and if it was enough. T e article helped me to know that there are other nurses/daughters out there who struggle with the death of their parents. God has helped us with the strength and compassion to take care of our parents. And as their daughter, I’m grateful I was their nurse. T ank you.
—Sue Minehart, RN Chevy Chase, Md.
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END OF SHIFT
Patient names: Mom and Dad By Patty Healey Yaniz, BSN, RN, CEFM
includes managing family medical responsi- bilities. We are relied upon for input on when to see a physician or visit an emergency room or maybe to decipher test results or review a new prescription. Over the past five years, I wore the family nurse hat as my parents’ health declined and they passed away. I am the fifth of six children, but the only
urses are not strangers to getting phone calls from friends and acquaintances seeking medical advice, referrals and drive-by assessments. And for many of us, being a nurse
agnosed with cancer, she reminded me that she never wanted to be subjected to chemotherapy at her age. She actually put pen to paper and planned her music and liturgy for her funeral to be sure it was what she wanted.
So, four years later,
one with a career in the healthcare field. My parents each had living wills and I was given medical power of attorney. In theory, it was a smart, proactive, straightforward plan. In reality, it had some issues. My father fell ill first. My parents had plenty of time to review or
discuss last wishes. My father, a retired physician, definitely knew the importance of this and the path he was on. In 2011, a urinary tract infection quickly became sepsis and within
a few hours my mother was faced with the decision to either follow her heart or a document. My father was placed on a ventilator, do- pamine and a feeding tube, and he needed dialysis. This is basically everything he didn’t want at the end of his life. It broke my heart to see him like that and suffering, yet it also crushed me to see my mother’s grief and denial of the situation. It fell to me to balance my father’s wishes with my mother’s need for time, hope and acceptance. After 48 hours I braved the difficult conversation with my
mother, with information from the physicians and living will in hand, and after a meeting and prayers with her priest and friends. Finally, my mother and I understood the task ahead of us. It was the three of us together in that ICU room when my dad took his last breath as my mother professed her love for him. I struggled with my role as daughter-nurse. She would call me
for recaps, reviews and reassurance that we made the right deci- sion. She depended on my knowledge, my strength and my love. Because of my dad’s passing and my mother’s age she became
very aware of illness and death. During our visits, she would point out important documents and instructions. When a friend was di-
XX MONTH 2016 • REGION
What was my role? Nurse, daughter or both? At times I am still overcome with the grief and the responsibility that I shouldered.
when a fall with a broken leg became a bone cancer diagnosis, my mother called me from a hospital room and asked me to take her home. And home we went. Within a week my mother died.
At times I felt like I couldn’t be the sad, grieving daughter because I was measuring morphine, bathing or turning her, or making phone calls. What was my role? Nurse, daughter or both? At times I am still
overcome with the grief and the responsibility that I shouldered. They trusted me to help them with possibly their most important journey. I hope one day I can fully accept the role I played as nurse-daughter. Looking back, I felt it was my duty as a nurse to give my parents the best care and make the best decisions for their treatment. In assuming that role, my feelings and grief as a daughter were delayed. Of course there were moments that I held their hands and expressed my love and gratitude, but I was more focused on their care and tasks in front of me. Months went by before I finally was able to reflect upon it
all. I cried daily and found solace in talking with friends and co-workers who had similar experiences. Time has passed. Some days I am still sad and reflect on my
choices and the care I provided during that time, and on other days I am in awe of the gift I was given. I was with both my parents when they took their last breaths and their souls left their physical bodies. •
Patty Healey Yaniz, BSN, RN, CEFM, is a labor and delivery nurse at Northwestern Lake Forest (Ill.) Hospital.
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