Seeking Obituaries: Morbid or Closure?
Since taking my first inpatient PTA position six months ago, I've developed a somewhat morbid habit that is completely career related -- I assure you. Most weekends (and I'll admit many weekday evenings), I find myself perusing the local online obituary websites. I scan the lists of the "newly posted" in search of my patients' names.
I began seeking out the obituaries after one of my patients with advanced dementia, who I worked with daily for over two months, suddenly left the facility. Her absence wasn't a shock; she was slowly, torturously dying when I met her after all -- but I was never told she had passed. She was simply not my patient anymore. For weeks I would check for her obit -- ecretly hoping I would find it.
Then one day, there it was. Within a short, thoughtful paragraph laid the highlights of this woman's life -- her family, profession and interests, which she could never communicate to me while we worked together. Understandably, as I was with her in her final months on earth, she was only a shell of the woman she once was. After reading her obituary, I felt complete closure. She wasn't the tortured soul I worked with in the therapy gym; she was at peace.
Many times patients are whisked away to home hospice, leave the facility due to insurance cutoff dates or even pass-on over the weekend, without a wave goodbye. The most important aspect of my job as a therapist is to spend time with and comfort patients so they feel compelled to work with me. The day-in and -out interaction, conversations and small gains we can sometimes make in their functional mobility can naturally lead to a connection with that person.
Therefore, I'm hooked. I've even started to look up individual funeral home websites. Could this deathly fascination be something unique to a new therapist just starting in the field -- or will I feel compelled to Google patient's names upon discharge five years down the therapeutic road? I have a suspicion that after working with enough patients at the end-of-life, this interest will quickly wane... but I hope not.