ask Helen: Coping in noisy hospital as loved one passes on

A Nosh of Jewish Wisdom:
Recovering from an illness makes one feel like returning to the days of one’s youth.

Dear Helen:

Ten years ago my sister went through several rounds of chemo and her cancer went into remission. We had a long time together, but her cancer came roaring back like a freight train after we’d all pushed it to the back of our minds. In her last days she was in a lot of pain despite the meds. On her floor was a very loud and unhappy patient. I do not know his medical issues, but he made sure that everyone knew of all his complaints about pain and “bad service.” We were trying to keep Deborah’s passing gentle (think harp music and soft prayers). This man was hugely disruptive. The nurses tried to pacify us until the complaints from other patients’ families got loud enough that they finally moved him. I know part of my anger is grief, but what can I do to make sure others do not die this way?

Sobbing Sister



Dear Sobbing Sister:

In such circumstances, protecting the dying person is the single most important thing. In the future, should God forbid you encounter such circumstances, start with a complaint at the nurse’s station asking that the disruptive patient be told to keep her/her voice down or s/he will be moved into a room with a door that is kept closed. If that does not work, start your way up the hospital food chain, both medical and administrative. Ask each person to stand in the hallway outside your sister’s room and listen for ten minutes to what the families are being subjected to. That should be enough to get a change. If not, ask your doctor to request a room transfer to a different floor. As a last resort, saying that you would prefer not to consult your attorney should motivate almost any administrator.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email