Yumiko Sato Music Therapy

Journey Into Wholeness

It it depressing to work at hospice?

Is it depressing to work at hospice?  I’ve been asked this question many times before, and I can understand why people may think that hospice work must be sad and depressing.  In their minds hospice suggests a place of death.

But hospice is not a place.  It’s a type of care provided for people with terminal illnesses and their loved ones.  The goal is to offer them not only medical care but also emotional and spiritual support so that people can have peace, comfort, and dignity at the end of life.  Hospice is about caring, not curing.

In hospice we don’t consider death to be a medical failure but a life stage each of us will pass.  Helping people die is much like helping babies to be born, as both are natural parts of life.

A friend of mine who is an ER doctor once told me about the weekly meeting he had to attend called “morbidity and mortality” during which his team discusses the illnesses and the deaths of patients from that week.  The cases involving death are looked at carefully so as to prevent them from happening again.  In the eyes of an ER team death is a failure, even though some deaths are inevitable.

My friend and I have come to a conclusion that his work as an ER doctor focuses more on death than my work as a hospice music therapist.  When death is a natural, unavoidable, and at times a welcomed transition, the focus shifts from death to life: It’s no longer about how to prevent people from dying but how to help them live their remaining time well.

So hospice care is about living, because dying is a part of living.  A vibrant lady in her early 50’s who was dying from cancer once told me, “My life has been an adventure, and death is just another adventure to me. I am ready for the new adventure now.” To be a part of people’s lives at the time of transition is a mysterious, humbling, and powerful experience.  Hospice work has not been depressing at all but an incredible journey that taught me about life.

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11 comments on “It it depressing to work at hospice?

  1. Teal Ashes
    January 6, 2014

    Hospice care offered my mother dignity and comfort in her last stage of living. I’ve been grateful for their services ever since. Thank you for providing that comfort and interaction to others.

    • Yumi
      January 8, 2014

      I’m glad to learn that you had a positive experience with hospice. 🙂

  2. Dog Tales: A Hospice Dog Blog
    January 7, 2014

    Many staff members and volunteers at our company are often asked that same question. Your answer, and outlook on hospice, is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this…people need to know how much of a blessing hospice care really is. Thank you for all that you do.

    • Yumi
      January 8, 2014

      Thank you for your kind words and for the important work you do!

  3. daveh90
    January 7, 2014

    I have a friend here in the States who works as a funeral director and he gets similar questions, although I know they are somewhat different circumstances. I myself would not view it as depressing, as you said it is humbling. I would view the title and job as an honor to serve those who are moving on to another realm. I truly am thankful for all those who are in this line of service. ありがとうございます!

    • Yumi
      January 8, 2014

      Thank you so much. Have you ever seen a Japanese movie called “Departures (okuribito)”? It is a beautiful story about a mortician. It resonated with me, because of the similarity between their work and hospice work.

      • daveh90
        January 8, 2014

        I have not seen it. 😦 But I will look it up! 🙂

  4. W.D. Noganosh
    January 14, 2014

    Meegwetch

    • Yumi
      January 14, 2014

      I see that “Meegwetch” means “Thank You” in the Native American Ojibway, Cree, and Oji-cree dialects. You’re welcome!

  5. lmjapan
    January 24, 2014

    This post reminded me of my friend who is a caregiver for an elderly man with Alzheimer’s. I asked him once if his job made him sad but he said that he saw the man’s mental deterioration as a natural part of life. I think it’s those of us who try and analyze death from a distance that see it as scary and depressing. But for those who witness it up close, they are able to take a much more realistic view and realize that it is indeed just another stage in life, albeit the final one. Thank you very much for posting this, your last paragraph in particular was very touching.

    • Yumi
      January 27, 2014

      Thank you for sharing your insightful comment as always. 🙂

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This entry was posted on January 6, 2014 by in End-of-Life Music Therapy, Hospice and tagged , , , .
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