Caring for Patients in Life and in Death


When your patients pass away, lending support to their loved ones can help forge a continuing bond.

Since I have spent the past 13 years at the same pharmacy, located in my adopted hometown, I have made a lot of friends within my clientele. With some, I talk football; with others, I just say hello and let them lead the conversation. I’ve watched children grow up, and I’ve watched old men grow older. They seem to stay the same for so long, enjoying good health into their golden years, and then, one day, the “old-man switch” gets flipped. It is hard to watch a friend, or any patient for that matter, as their body begins to fail. It is, however, part of the job.

One of the hardest parts of the job, other than having to say goodbye to friends, is seeing their spouses soldiering on after their “right arm” has been taken away from them. When you see a couple together all of the time and still holding hands after 50 years together, you realize how close they are. My wife and I have been married almost 17 years and have been together for 20; I’d be devastated if I lost her. The thought of losing her after 50+ years is hard to fathom. It is not surprising that after one spouse dies, the second soon follows. I actually think it can be better that way.

When my schedule allows, I go to my patients’ viewings. Like I said, most of them have become my friends. The least I can do is take a half hour out of my life and see them one final time. It shows respect and reflects what an honor it was to help take care of them for as long as I did.

It also makes good business sense. It sends the message that I am making an extra effort to offer a measure of comfort to their family and, if they continue to do business with me, I will keep on doing so. Quite frankly, it’s about more than commerce; to paraphrase the Dickens character, Jacob Marley, mankind is my business.

When you work in health care, you know that patients are going to die. From the made-it-into-their-late-80s patients to those who endure the nightmare of having to bury a child or infant, I have seen the entire spectrum of death. Whether the loss is a crying shame of “they went too young” from a heart attack to the “it’s a blessing, and now they are at peace” end of a cancer battle, I have been there for my patients and their families. If you can’t be there for yours, then the mail order house is calling you.

I’m not saying that you have to go to your patients’ viewings or funerals like I do, but you should have compassion for them and their families when they are in their hospice time. Having watched my Dad fade away from multiple system atrophy, and then succumb to it, I can vouch for how difficult a process this can be for family caregivers. Be there for them when they need you. It goes beyond filling prescriptions, and they deserve no less. Peace.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, is there when his patients need him. Are you?

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