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[hospice n.1. (from Latin - hospitium) a houseof shelter and entertainment for pilgrims, travelers,or strangers on a journey.2. (Medical) a facility or program designed to providea caring environment for meeting the physical and emotionalneeds of the terminal ill.]
DIANA: It's a conversation stopper.You go to a party and people ask,what do you do for a living?Well, I'm a nurse.Well, what kind of nursing do you do?I'm a hospice nurse.Oh.That must be awfully hard.If I could give you a nickel for every timeI've heard that, you'd be rich.
SPEAKER 1: It's gonna happen to you folks someday, too.It's inevitable.Isn't that that word?[Stopping For Death, The Nurses of Wells House Hospice]
DAVID: We need to have a lot more education about hospiceand death and you know, that it's really not this great,big, awful thing that we're afraid isgonna give us nightmares.
DIANA: We look at so much at deathas a failure in our society. [Diana, Director of NursingWells House Hospice] And we've trained our doctors that way.Poor things.It's not their fault.[Filmed At Wells House Hospice, Long Beach, California]
CURTIS: Hey, you know what, we should go upto [INAUDIBLE] with him, huh?Carry him up the top, and just let him go,and see if he can steer around.
JUDITH: Well, we have 16 beds.Let me tell you something about 16 beds.When you're the only nurse [INAUDIBLE],you're the only one with two home health aides,it gets busy around here.
DIANA: Sometimes it's so hard you just thinkyou can't do it another day.And then other days, you think, I'mthe luckiest person in the world to bemaking this kind of difference in people's lives.
DAVID: These people are paying for this with their lives.They're dying.This is it.We're the last stop.
DIANA: This is a tough job.But there's no more satisfying job that I've ever had.I can't imagine doing anything else.[Judith]
JUDITH: People think it's a kind of ghoulish kind of placeto work, but it's not.That feel okay?
SPEAKER 2: Uh-huh.
JUDITH: Eating okay?
SPEAKER 2: Yeah, I'm starving.
JUDITH: You didn't eat very much today.Just the sandwich.
SPEAKER 2: Yeah.
JUDITH: You want some more jello?
SPEAKER 2: No.
JUDITH: OK.I know what you want.You want to smoke.
SPEAKER 2: No.[LAUGHING]
JUDITH: I have a whole different attitude about deathsince I've been here, and my family doesn't understand that.They're telling me, get a new job because it's too rough.You're around too much death.And I'm like, but I'm happy.Sardines?
SPEAKER 3: I get the whole menu over.
JUDITH: Well, sometimes you have to do that.
SPEAKER 3: I feel like sardines.
JUDITH: Well, you look like a sardine today.[LAUGHING]I get back a lot more than I give.And I like to think I give a lot.Sammy boy.Wake up, honey. [Sam, 39, AIDS Patient] You allright?Let me look at your eyes.A little red.You okay?
JUDITH: We take a lot of off the street people,and that's a whole other population to deal with.They've had absolutely nothing when they come here.A lot of people, nothing.No families.And therefore, you have to find the beauty in all of them.
SAM: Let's give it to my bonsai plant.
JUDITH: OK, in the bonsai plant here?
JUDITH: Whoops.Little Bonsai got a little bit too much, sorry.
SAM: That's OK.
JUDITH: Just swallow that down.Knock, knock.
JUDITH: Rhonda.Milk of Magnesia.[Mary, 35, AIDS Patient] You said you wanted it.
MARY: Yeah, like nine years ago.
JUDITH: We didn't have it nine years ago.We just--[MARY YELLS]This is Rhonda.
MARY: That's my sister.
JUDITH: She's our favorite sister.
RHONDA: My favorite nurse is beautiful.Don't tell nobody.Please don't tell anybody.
JUDITH: Don't tell anybody.It might go to my head.You love having white lips.You're jealous.[LAUGHING]
MARY: No, you're jealous.
JUDITH: I'm really black.I'm just a little light-skinned.
RHONDA: She trying to keep you up in here with her.You know that.
MARY: Do I do that all the time?
RHONDA: All the time.
MARY: Do I do that every time you come in?
MARY: I just lounge the conversation.
JUDITH: You lounge, you converse,you take hours to take it.
MARY: It's nasty.
JUDITH: I agree.It's nasty stuff, but it works.Are you trying to organize her again?
RHONDA: Yes, I am.
JUDITH: Oh, well, see how good she is?She looks out for us.
MARY: See how you almost fell?It's because you lying.
JUDITH: I'm not lying.I only fall when I tell the truth.[Curtis]
CURTIS: Most of my patients are combative.And they hit me.I tell them that that's a camera.
SPEAKER 4: You're just as crazy as the patients.
CURTIS: I know.Go ahead and hit me.It's on camera.Have you seen that lady? [Curtis, Home Health Aide] Shedoes this.She gets in the position.She's the pet psychic.And she gets in the same position as the animalsto try and prevent what's bothering them.
DIANA: We have some very unique staff here.[Diana, Director of Nursing] One thing I love about us is thatyou know, they're not afraid to hire personalities that reallydon't fit the mold of some other places.
CURTIS: I guess I don't have it.I used to manage a Jack in the Box.
INTERVIEWER: So what was it like working there?
CURTIS: At Jack in the Box?Hi, welcome to Jack in the Box.Would you like fries with that?Oh my god, it was like hell.Hospice is easy.Hospice is easy. [Mr. Sakuda, 93, Heart Failure Patient][GROANS]Bodies and bodies shit.Pee, I pee.You poo, I poo.
CURTIS [continued]: It's all the same.All that noise.[GROANS]I don't wanna cure the world because they don'thave a cure for everything.It's just to make them comfortable while they're here.Hi.
SPEAKER 5: Hi.
CURTIS: Hi, Sammy bammy.OK.It was real.[Wells House is one of the only full-time residential hospicesin the country.] [Approximately 2.5 million Americans die eachyear from terminal illnesses.Less than half use hospice.]
INTERVIEWER: You talk about the rewards of this joband the difficulties of this job.Why don't people want to work in it?[LAUGHS]
DIANA: Well, I think part of that is just,America's overall death phobia that we have.Death has been taken out of the home.Used to be everybody died at home.Death has been taken out of the homeand isolated into a hospital or a nursing home,so people don't know what dying is all about anymore.
DIANA [continued]: [In a recent study, Americans were asked, "What is Hospice?"Fewer than 20% could define it.][Family Of New Patient At Wells House]
SPEAKER 6: Family?Yeah, I'm the oldest.
JUDITH: I'm Judith.I'm the PM charge nurse.
SPEAKER 7: At the hospital, they reallydidn't explain anything to us, and wedon't know what to expect.
JUDITH: This will help you know what to expect.Hospice is a place that people cometo when their terminally ill.We do comfort measures, and what'scalled palliative care, which means we control their pain,we control their anxiety, we can certainly do their wounds,whatever they need done.But we don't call the hospital.
JUDITH [continued]: We don't call 911.They've signed what's called a do not resuscitate order.That means when they die, we just let them go.My experience here is that no one dies alone.I've sat with many patients who took their last breath with meholding their hands and it's, um--
JUDITH [continued]: it's actually a really beautiful experience.And I don't find that difficult, but it's-- to know that you area part of their comfort makes a big difference.See, that's the kind of family contact I like.
JUDITH [continued]: And you can explain things to them.They came in knowing absolutely nothing.And they're coming to grips with the factthat they're losing their father,and he obviously shielded them for many years.
DIANA: One of the things about thisbeing a residential hospice that I thinkaffects our staff differently than maybean inpatient acute hospice is that our staff members becomethe family for many of these patients,and they're with them for 40 hours a week.And some of them for more than 40 hours a week.
DIANA [continued]: [See, pretty soon people gonna think we're lovers,the way you're holding on to me.][No, I don't wanna say it--][Who around here that aint?] [Then I'm eating your foodand your candy-- soon they're gonna start thinking things.][When I give you a diamond ring--]
DIANA [continued]: [LAUGHS]
JUDITH: You want some Roxanol, too?All right, sit up and take this.Let me go get you some Roxanol.[She's the best nurse in the world.] [I trust her withmy life, anytime.]
SPEAKER 9: (MUMBLED)Thank you.
JUDITH: (MUMBLED) You're welcome.[LAUGHS]Don't show it.Where's it hurt?In your groin?Oh yeah, you got quite a cramp there.
SPEAKER 9: Yup.
JUDITH: That hurt?
SPEAKER 9: That's a bit better.[At every shift change, the staff meets for "Report"to discuss the well being of each patient.]
JUDITH: I wanted to talk about our smokers.We're reassessing everybody.So Sammy, have you guys noticed him noddingwhen he's smoking any longer?Anybody?
MYRTIS: In the evenings he does.
JUDITH: When he smokes?Well, that's what I'm trying to determine.Is he safe to be smoking without somebody watching himso he doesn't burn himself?
MYRTIS: Last night he was out of it.
JUDITH: OK, he was?He was sleeping while he was smoking?
JUDITH: I think he's self-medicating.
DIANA: We can't do it right now.He has confessed to several peoplethat he's been buying dope in the park.And he was also in one of the bars down the street.We got a hot tip from an employeewho was at the bar themselves.[LAUGHING]OK, so Sam is a no.He's going to have to still be observed.
DIANA [continued]: But he's going to have to know that we cannot take him outevery hour to smoke.
SAM: How you doing?
JUDITH: Oh, good.Good to see you.[Today's my first day.I haven't had no arguments with nobody.And I've been keeping my cool, and not let--I'm catching myself now.]
JUDITH: That deserves a hug.[I'm actually catching myself before I do something stupid.]
SAM: I tried my hardest, you know,to do good and stuff like that.And I was told today that I'd been doing very well,and that I might be getting my cigarettes back.Are you guys going to smoke?
CURTIS: OK, let's go.
CURTIS: Yeah, but you have to go in first.
SAM: Yes, sir.
JUDITH: We have nurses that come and go here.You know, you can tell when they walk in the door they're notgonna like us.Never gonna handle this thing.
CURTIS: You get some really good nurses,and then you don't see them.You know, then they get scared.
JUDITH: Sometimes David drives them away.He likes to get too involved in nursing.He and I are kind of at odds now, so I'm trying to back off.He's a good program director.Like I said the other day, he knows what he's doing.He's helped make this program a big success.But when it comes to nursing, he just doesn't get it.
DAVID: I make each department headresponsible for going through the policy and proceduresand the regulations for their department.So they know why I'm asking them to do exactly what I'masking them to do.It's not because, well, you know, David likes it this way.Well, no, I really don't.That's the regulation.
JUDITH: He thinks because he's program director,he should have his hands in everything,and he-- sometimes he goes a little far.
DAVID: Did you tell Judith about this cat's bad reportat the doctor's office?He's 19 pounds. [Felix, Charge Nurse]Poor baby's going to have a heart attack.
JUDITH: OK.Well, I won't give him as many treats.
DAVID: As many?
JUDITH: I only give him a couple.
DAVID: A couple an hour.
JUDITH: I'll control myself.I'm sorry.It's all my fault. [Many of the patientswho live at Wells House have been indigent or homeless.Other patients come from affluent families who need helpcaring for them.]
JUDITH: We've got a lot of similarly aged peoplewith similar diseases right now.So they can relate to one another better.
INTERVIEWER: What is the most of them?
JUDITH: The most of them?I think we have a tossup between AIDS and cancer.There are a lot of AIDS patients.Move your little leg.
MARY: Why my leg gotta be little?
JUDITH: You want to say move your big old fat leg?
MARY: No.You've got to drink your water.
JUDITH: Finish your water.We've talked about you drinking more water for your face.
MARY: Did you see my face?
JUDITH: It looks better.It looks much improved.
MARY: I keep coughing up grey stuff.
JUDITH: It's because you smoke.
MARY: Shut up.
JUDITH: I always told you I'd tell you the truth.
MARY: Your mom gonna tell you gonna dislike being fast?
JUDITH: I've always had a bit of a nervous problem.
MARY: Really?Can I help you?
JUDITH: --too quickly.No, probably not.It's taken years to get through it.
MARY: I take it you're over 35.
JUDITH: I'm 44.
JUDITH: I'll be 45 in January.
MARY: You look good for your age, Miss Judith.
JUDITH: Thank you.
MARY: I'm serious.You really do.
JUDITH: When I was younger, people alwaysthought I was older.Now than I'm older, people think I'm younger.
MARY: That's a good thing
JUDITH: That's a good thing because I could--
MARY: That lets you know right there,she takes care of herself.
JUDITH: That's right.When I was in my teens, I could buy booze without them knowing.
MARY: So why you wanna buy some booze?
JUDITH: Well, I'm an alcoholic.
MARY: Yeah, she was an alcoholic.
JUDITH: I haven't had a drink in 14 and a half years.
MARY: What made you get sober?
JUDITH: I was sick and tired of being sick and--
MARY: And you straight tired of being sick and tired,and that's a good thing.
JUDITH: You know, the only thing Ihad was my two cats sitting on the sofa with a gallon of wineand me.
MARY: That's sad.
JUDITH: I had a job, but--
MARY: You telling me that you're living a sad existence?
MARY [continued]: [I'm not afraid to die.I know when I die--] [--I get off this planet,man.] [I'm gonna see my dad and my brother--] [--because theyboth passed away.]
INTERVIEWER: You're not scared?
INTERVIEWER: Not at all?
SAMMY: A little bit, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: What part scares you?
SAMMY: Not be able to say goodbye to my momand my sister.And you know, the good thing about itis that I understand my disease.My disease man, worked through me.Eating me up, man.
INTERVIEWER: What do you understand about it?
SAMMY: I understand that it's gonna-- I'm going pass away.But after a long time, I've been doing good.It's cool for me because I'm trying to stay sober.And actually, I'm doing pretty good.
INTERVIEWER: Staying sober?
SAMMY: Yeah.I think I'm doing pretty good.The better I do, it's good to let David know.[I'm gonna ask him, "Hey Man, I want my cigarettes back
SAMMY [continued]: on my birthday.That's what my birthday wish is going to be.Is to get my cigarettes back.][What about the ones in your pocket?]
JOYCE: How you doing, Mary? [Joyce, Home Health Aide]You always sick.
MARY: I am [INAUDIBLE].
JOYCE: What's wrong?
MARY: I don't know.I need lunch.
JOYCE: You need CPR?
MARY: Yeah.[INAUDIBLE][KISSING SOUNDS]She kissing my eye.She kissed me in my--
JOYCE: There, all that CPR.[LAUGHS]You want to get up in the [INAUDIBLE]?
MARY: Yeah, I want to go smoke.
JOYCE: I want to take you home with me.Move you into my bedroom.Gotta an empty room.We can take everything out, and you can come stay with us.
MARY: No shit.
MARY: I would like to go there.
JOYCE: Yeah.I talked about you until 1 o'clock.You know that's bad.
MARY: That is crazy.
JOYCE: Well, Hester said, will you stop talking about her?I said, no, because I feel so lonely until I get to work,and I see Mary.She brightens my day.
INTERVIEWER: How old are you, Mary?
JOYCE: Told ya.
JOYCE: On the real?You ain't no 50.Mary ain't no 50.Mary pushing about 38.
MARY: I'm 35, and I'm living life, and I love it.I don't want to see 35.That means you're knocking for me.
DIANA: Right now, there's this nursing shortage.
JUDITH: I have a problem, don't I.I'm short of home health aides.
DIANA: We can't get enough nurses into hospice.It's a field that not a lot of people want to go into anyway.Out of 15 applicants that they might get,maybe one or two are appropriate for a hospice position.And out of those one or two, one or both of themmay not make it through the training.
CURTIS: Do you actually think it's my faultthat she called in sick?No.I'm not gonna feel guilty because I'm notstaying this time.I had to stay last time.
DIANA: I'm not sure what makes a person suitable for hospice,able to do hospice.I know that I was always drawn to it.I think it just takes a person with a compassionate heartand a desire to make a difference in people'slives and an understanding that deathis a natural part of life.You know, and if you got those things, you're going to be OK.
DIANA [continued]: And self-care.You have to take care of yourself.If you don't, you will burn out eventually.
SPEAKER 11: I want you to tell Dr. Marvthat I had to come in on a Sunday to clean out my box.
JUDITH: That you are exempt because yours is a house spot.
SPEAKER 11: I know.I'm sure about filing medical records,and then I throw them away.
SPEAKER 11: I know they wouldn't.
SPEAKER 11: Do we have a felt pen?
JUDITH: I take my own medications.[How are things going with you dad?]
JUDITH: Well, They found a third lesion on his lung,and now they did a bone scan, and it'sgot some involvement in his neck, whichis where it started.And now it's in the bone.And he's having an extra round of chemotherapy,but he's still going through-- thishas been going on for like, two or three years, you know,I think.He's had chemo, I don't know, it seems like-- it seems
JUDITH [continued]: like last year I was telling Diane,I got to go home for Christmas because I thinkthis is the last Christmas.And I said that to her again.
INTERVIEWER: Are your mom and dad still together?
JUDITH: Uh-huh.50-- It'll be 53 years here.
INTERVIEWER: How's she doing with all of this?
JUDITH: She's having a hard time because hewon't let her talk about it.And I call her sometimes, and we whisper.I already did talk to one doctor last year,but he was kind of-- even though I'm a nurse,he was still kind of vague, and-- slime, you know?I'm in hospice, for god's sakes.
JUDITH [continued]: Talk to me.[Halloween]
SPEAKER 12: What are you doing?
SPEAKER 13: The making of a fairy.[LAUGHING]
CURTIS: Are the boobs in the right spot?
INTERVIEWER: They're a little low.
CURTIS: Are they?
CURTIS: But see, because if I put them up,you guys see too much.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, there you go.That's good.Tell us about your costume is.
CURTIS: I'm Mrs. Death.Actually, but I didn't want to tell them that in there.
JOSEPH: Happy Halloween.My name is Joseph.I am married to my beloved Barbara.And she asked me to come and do some magic for youat Halloween.
SPEAKER 14: Not so loud.
JOSEPH: First trick I ever learned.Right?Through the little hole.Perfect.Now the magic can begin.I gather the ends of the ropes, and miracle of miracles,the rope is one long piece of rope again.
AUDIENCE: Ha.Yeah, right.
JOSEPH: I can tell by the lack of applauseyou're underwhelmed.Maybe you'd like it better if it were this?[AUDIENCE CHEERS]
INTERVIEWER: So you're not gonna watch any of the magic show?
JUDITH: No.I gotta get this done.
KIM: I've been fighting cancer since '99.[Kim, 47, New Patient] Insurance companyspend $537,000 trying to save my life.That's when they handed me a letter saying,you know, her survival is possible, if it's not too late.And so, rather than go to my familyand have my family have to watch me die, I came here.
INTERVIEWER: You know that your patients are going to die.
INTERVIEWER: I mean, that's a very different psychologythan the rest of medicine.
DIANA: Yeah, which is extend life at all costs.Problem is is that a lot of our doctorshave a bias against hospice because they thinkit's so depressing, you know?They really don't get it.They really, really don't get it.
KIM: To whom it may concern, Mrs. Whitehas been diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell cancerwith metastasis to the bone.She will require an analgesic therapy.Her expected survival is less than six months.Sincerely, Dr. Berkowitz.And that was how they broke it to me-- was take me in a room,
KIM [continued]: and sat my husband and I down, and handed us a letter,and said this is what you got, and this is your choices.
JUDITH: got a raise, but I still make less than a bus driver.It's true.I read it in the paper today.They make $18 an hour.
INTERVIEWER: That's a lot of money.
JUDITH: It's a lot of money to drive--to sit on your butt all day and drive.But again, what they put up with.Fumes and crazy people.That's what I put up with.
SPEAKER 1: Hey, how'd you get three cigarettes?
SAM: I only get two.One here and one here.
SPEAKER 1: Then what's in the other ear?
SAM: Oh,that one, that-- that was a--
SPEAKER 1: That one doesn't count?
SAM: No, that was-- Oh, I don't know where that one came from.
VICTOR: You got a cigarette man?
SAM: I don't give out my cigarette.But here, I'll give you one.
SPEAKER 1: How are you?What's your name?Victor.
SAM: Don't plan on getting a cigarette from meall the time either.
SPEAKER 1: Here comes my friend Lonny.
LONNY: Hey, you need to think about yourself Sam,he just got here OK?
SAM: I know he just got here so--
LONNY: OK then, so you need to worry about yourself.
SAM: Don't worry about it.Don't yell at me man.
LONNY: Well you worry about it.
SAM: I'm just saying you know.
SPEAKER 1: That's OK Sam.
SAM: Get on my fucking case.I'm the wrong person.
LONNY: I'm the wrong person.
MARY: Where can I find my nurse?I'd like to get my bed.
SPEAKER 2: Joyce is here today.
SPEAKER 3: Stand away from Mary.
SPEAKER 2: Why?
SPEAKER 3: I don't know.Just stand away from her.She's not Mary.Nope, nope, nope.
SPEAKER 2: What's different about her?
SPEAKER 3: She's not eating like she used to.She's um-- she's real quiet now.Depressed, just a lot of-- and then she'streating everybody so mean.So that's why I don't want to be around her.Because I don't want her to snap at melike that so I'm just going to stand away as much as possible.
JUDITH: I brought this note.
INTERVIEWER: So did your review go well?
JUDITH: Yeah, I got a raise and they brought up the cat.
JUDITH: Unable to follow directionsconcerning facility cat.Something silly like that.
INTERVIEWER: It's actually written in there?
JUDITH: In my review.Also that if I had a better personal lifemy self esteem would be better.And therefore myself confidence.I don't know what my personal life hasto do with my on-- work review.
JUDITH [continued]: I've yet to talk to Sandra about it.But he also commented that my rapportwith the patients and the families was excellence.He had Sandy change it from very good to excellent.And that I've gotten a lot of letters,which I have, from the families citing my care.So, he changed that.So that's positive.
JUDITH [continued]: But he still had to throw in the cat.
DAVID: Can you tell the girls a little bit about your life?
VICTOR: My life is in welfare monies.That's about it.[An announcement is made that the state is proposing to cuthospice benefits to Medi Cal patients.][Wells House depends on this money to take careof their indigent population.]
DIANA: We people here who have nowhere else to go.And could never ever take care of themselves,yet don't quality for a nursing home.You know people with dual diagnosis, like Victor.
DAVID: Tell them how old you are.
VICTOR: Well, I'm 54 and I want ti get back to college.Some how, some way.
DAVID: Yeah, you want to go back to school
VICTOR: I'd like to.
DAVID: Go back to work.Like you were telling me yesterday.
VICTOR: Yeah, back to work, so if that's possible.And my left arm surgery and my left leg surgery.
DAVID: Show them how come you need arm surgery.
VICTOR: Arm surgery, well because it's like a sack.
DAVID: See, it's disconnected.
VICTOR: Two bones have to be put togetherwith a synthetic something else, like something put together,and it's just muscle, and muscle and nerves.
DAVID: That's what's holding it together is muscle and nerve.The price in human suffering is very, very high.So, I don't know what we're going to do.
DIANA: Yes darling.
SAM: Can you scratch my back please?
DIANA: Well, come here.
INTERVIEWER: What's new?
DIANA: We've hired some new awesome nurses in here.I'll be in on evenings-- Cynthia, Goes by Cindy.And she's just going to be great.She's only been here two weeks and she's already awesome.So that's the encouraging word.The discouraging word is that not everybodywants to be a hospice nurse.I can't understand why when you have lovely people like Sam.
DIANA: You know, to make your day.But it's a difficult field to--
SAM: Do it right in the middle.
DIANA: Right in the middle?
CINDY: I got laid off from job I had in home health.And I was passing by and I said OK, well what can I do?It can't hurt to ask.You know I haven't even put my bag down.It's not even officially 3: 00 and I've got everybodyin my cha cha.They were like yeah, we're hiring.Yes.Fill out an application.I came back the next day and gave them my resume.and that afternoon i came in and talked to Davidand that's pretty much it,
DAVID: She'd tell you straight up if you piss her off.That's the kind of people we need you know.None of this oh I'm going to tell you somethingand it's going to hurt your feelingsand then you go and quit.You know, we get all these weak nurses.When you're a nurse you've got to take shitfrom every direction.
INTERVIEWER: So how is this different than other nursing?
CINDY: This is more palliative.I mean you're taking care of them.And so like, when I go through a night of just being reallybusy, but I've been really busy and I've gotten somebody outof pain.That feels really good.Because I know at least now they're going to rest.You know?Now they're going to feel OK.At least for the night hopefully.You know?
CINDY [continued]: And you don't really get that I think working in a hospital.Because see-- in a hospital you watchthem progress and get better and go home and that's fine.You know?This is almost an honor to be working with these peoplebecause they know what's going to happen to them,and this is what they've chosen to do.And you're here to help them.
CINDY [continued]: You know?What you know, what more of an honor could that be?This is the decision I've made, how I'm going to end my life.And you're somebody that's here to help them do that.And that to me is just, is everything.
INTERVIEWER: So what's hard about the job?
CINDY: What's hard about the job?Well, I think the hardest part hadn't happened to me yet.And that's when somebody passes awayand that hasn't happened to me yet.And I know when that does happen that's gonna--I'm already taking it home.[Wells House hires temp nurses, knownas "Registry." to cover duties when they are short staffed.Registry is expensive so David encourages the staff to cover]
CINDY [continued]: [Judith agrees to come in on her day off.]
JUDITH: I was not supposed to be here today.They didn't have anyone to come in.So here I am.The Savior.As usual.When I was watching football.I just got up at 2: 00.[SINGING: HAPPY BIRTHDAY]
SPEAKER 4: Baby sis.You have an effect on people that I firstnoticed when we were little.I'll never forget that time you stoodin Mrs. Harris' back yard, held out your hand,and that bird just landed in your palm.You've always had a heart of gold.Oh, and let's not forget your sense of humor.I always thought you could have bee a stand-up.But it Was OK.Because I know angels like to laugh too.
SPEAKER 4 [continued]: Love you always, Sparkle.
SPEAKER 5: Eat your cake Missy.
MARY: So rich.
SPEAKER 6: going on?
JUDITH: Well, we have no coverage for tomorrow.
JUDITH: Evening.Oh, I don't need that.Diane's going to work on it from home.Thank God, because sometimes she expects me to do itand I just don't have time to sit here on the phone.
PATIENT: Did we order Demerol rocks?
JUDITH: What do you mean?
PATIENT: I said can I now have Demerol rocks?
JUDITH: You don't have any Demerol.
PATIENT: I was just teasing.
JUDITH: Oh, see I don't know what you have.
JUDITH: It's not in yet.it's coming.You just need to relax.It's coming.
PATIENT: Well you know I'm a prescription drug addict.
JUDITH: No, I don't know that.I know nothing about you.
PATIENT: I'm just kidding.
JUDITH: I know nothing about you.
PATIENT: Will you let me know when it my-- when it does come?
JUDITH: Yes I will.I'm expecting it at any time.
PATIENT: If It doesn't come?
JUDITH: It will.I already called and they said theywould page the driver to make sure he comes here first.
PATIENT: Oh, we're out.Oh wow.So we're important.
JUDITH: No, it's just because I'm such a bitch.
PATIENT: Don't be a bitch to my Adavant delivery guy.
JUDITH: No, they're close, they're close.So the driver's on it's way.So you just have to be patient OK?
PATIENT: I am a patient.
JUDITH: OK.No patient.A patient patient.I've been trying to do rounds since I walked in the doorbut everybody wanted medications.Where do you think you're going?
WORKER: Stop.Smoke time.
JUDITH: You can't take a break until--
WORKER: Mary's outside.
JUDITH: She doesn't need supervision.She's got someone with her.You're not supposed to take a break.
WORKER: I haven't taken a break yet.
JUDITH: Since Sam's-- is he smoking by himself?Where does he get the cigarettes?
WORKER: I just pushed Mary out thereand he was already out there.He's got cigarettes on him.
JUDITH: You must have a pack on you.
SAM: No, I don't have no pack.
JUDITH: Where are you getting the cigarettes?
SAM: I got this, I got this from Ken.
JUDITH: You are not to smoke my yourself.We've discussed it.You are dangerous.
SAM: What do mean dangerous?
JUDITH: [INAUDIBLE] We've been talkingabout this for a long time.OK?So you need a home health aid to smoke.You can finish that and come in.I don't want you to burn yourself.
SAM: I don't burn myself anymore.
WORKER: Judith, do you want me to come back in
JUDITH: I still haven't heard from the Registries to seeif they can cover 3: 00 to 11: 00.
DAVID: 3: 00 to 11: 00?
JUDITH: Yeah, this shift.I'm supposed to be home watching football.
DAVID: I know where you are supposed to be.And I want you to be there.
WORKER: Did everybody go home Mary?
WORKER: Yeah?You had a big day today.
MARY: A tired day.
WORKER: I know, I can tell.
MARY: Can somebody wipe his nose for me?
SAM: Don't say anything about my fucking nose.
MARY: This is for your fucking nose.
WORKER: Cut it out.
SAM: She said there's something on my nose.
WORKER: It's nothing but dry skin Mary.Same thing you have on your nose.Dry skin.Don't do that.That's not nice.
MARY: Well, you [INAUDIBLE].I don't like to get people's noses.She got it.
JUDITH: I was hoping that Shirley would come in at 7: 00.
JUDITH: Hi Wendy.It's Judith from Wells House.Listen, I'm on disability and I'llexplain it when I talk to you.But I don't know if filming is wise at this pointor-- you know we can talk about itand-- it might be a-- a good example of care giver burnout.
JUDITH [continued]: OK honey.Give me a call.Bye,[Unable to work, Judith takes an extended leave of absence fromWells House.]
DIANA: Hey, how's it going?
SPEAKER 7: You look pretty sad.
DIANA: Hey, we're losing Mary.
SPEAKER 7: Really?
DIANA: I'll be surprised if she goes through the day.
SPEAKER 7: You're kidding?
DIANA: Her whole house is very sad.Just because she's as much of an imp as she is and has been,you know, we've grown accustomed to her presence here.Everybody's really going to miss her.Everybody's having a hard time.
WENDY: Mary, it's Wendy and Tasha.
DAVID: This is as close to death as you're gonna get.It's a matter of her giving up and letting go.
WENDY: What happened?
DAVID: What happened with her?It's the virus.It's taken over Thank body-- and she can't fight any infection.Is this your fist experience?
DIANA: She is actively dying.Right now.I would say that any time within the next 12--you know within the next hour to the next 24.Her breathing has changed and shehas the gurgling you know which is a very-- sign of very close
DIANA [continued]: so OK?She hasn't been alone.Somebody's been with her all day.She knows you're here.
RHONDA: She doesn't look to be too much suffering.She looks really at peace and looks really good.
DIANA: She's real comfortable.
DIANA: [SINGING] Precious Lord take my hand.Lead me on to the land.I am tired.I am weak.
DIANA [continued]: I am warm.Through the storm, through the night.Lead me on to that light.Precious Lord take my hand.
DIANA [continued]: Lead me on.
DIANA: Mary's had quite a life.Did she every tell you about her knife scar here?
INTERVIEWER: A little bit.
DIANA: Just a fight she had with somebody in the park.They cut her with a-- that's a wicked scar.My God.Mary must have been one tough little cookie.
RHONDA: This has been a journey that I'll never forgetand I'm doing a, like a journal.Diana told me about a grief journal.It's hard to see her like this whatsoever.It's really tearing me down.But I just want to be here.I just want to be here for her.And I commend these nurses who do this type of work.
RHONDA [continued]: I really commend it.You know, because a lot of people,they don't want to do it.But there are a lot of people who love what they're doing.And the don't get paid a lot.I think they should get paid much more.For real you know?And I don't think of life being unfair because she has AIDS.I just know things happen.We make choices sometimes.You know.But we don't condemn her and say whatever, whatever.I mean, it seems like just to go with it.
RHONDA [continued]: I don't have time to be angry right now.All I can do is love Mary though.
INTERVIEWER: So what's going to happen now with Mary?
DIANA: Her breathing is changing.There's a lot of times will start an open mouth breathing.Their stare becomes kind of fixed.They don't seem to respond to any visual stimuli.And when it gets to be much closer,then they do what's called Cheyne Stokes breathing.
DIANA [continued]: And that's when they have apnea in between their breaths.So they may breathe two or three times normal breath,and then the stop breathing.And they may stop from 15, 20, 30, to 45 seconds and thenall of a sudden they'll start breathing again like that.Often it's just, they'll have oneof those periods of not breathing,
DIANA [continued]: and they won't start up again.That'll be it.[As Diana is describing it, Mary passes away.]
PREACHER: Dear God we thank you for Mary.We thank you for her spirit, her presencethat brought so much happiness and joy into our lives.Lord we thank you and commend her spirit to you.In the name of the Father, in the name of the Son,in the name of the Holy Spirit we pray.Amen.[SINGING]
CINDY: I'm going to wait a little whileand then go in there and ask them.
DIANA: Give them a good 30 minutes.
CINDY: Yeah, yeah.I'll wait.
DIANA: Is that you first death in the building?
CINDY: Yeah, and I really-- and Ithought I was like-- thought I had that nervous of steel.Have you told Sam?
DIANA: No because Sam is-- I would take Sam to his room.Sam is going to be very upset.
CINDY: Is that Sam?
DIANA: It may be Sam.
CINDY: Yeah, it's Kim.
DIANA: She probably found out that Mary died.[WHIMPERING]
CINDY: Mary, I'm going to take your clothes off darling.
WORKER: That's about it.
WORKER: I'm going to fix her hair.
WORKER [continued]: OK, she's ready.[MUSIC]
WORKER [continued]: [MUSIC]
CURTIS: So this is ready for the next one.The one goes and one comes.Even though Mary was feisty at her momentsand even though she was demandingand things like that I kind of connected a little bitwith her.And I needed to have closure.And that was the only funeral I've ever gone to
CURTIS [continued]: and it's the last-- it's the only one I'm going to go to.Because I just-- I don't know just--Mary was here when I got here and she broke me in.And you know, funny little thing shesaid to me when I first came.And she says, 'Hmm, wonder how long this man is goingto stay?' And I thought to myself,well what is that supposed to mean?
CURTIS [continued]: I mean, it's hard not to get emotional like I said.It's not part of the job.You would be in the wrong profession if you don't cry.You just have to put yourself at a distance that's all.
INTERVIEWER: So do you ever take a step back and thinkthat it's sort of strange that someone wouldbe a Jack in the Box, because it was too stressfuland instead they decided to go take care of dying people?
CURTIS: That's not stressful to me.That's not stressful to me.What's stressful to me is living people.Because you don't know what they're going to do.You don't know how they're going to react.The dead people or the dying people,you know how they're going to react.It's common that they're going to strike out at you.It's common that they're going to have pains
CURTIS [continued]: and aches and things like that.But it's just-- it's just normal.You know.But a person that's in their right mindis going to come and yell at you because you put cheeseon their hamburger.Good Lord get a life.
WORKER: I wasn't even here when Mary-- theycalled me and told me.I said OK, thank you for the information.OK bye.No, no, no I can't do that.
INTERVIEWER: You didn't want to come in?
INTERVIEWER: How come?
WORKER: I didn't want to see her like that.They called me, [INAUDIBLE] called and called.And then her sister came and said, why didn't youto come to the service?I didn't want to see her like that.I'll just remember her how she was.I didn't miss nothing.[Still unable to work, Judith is finally well enough to be
WORKER [continued]: filmed.]
JUDITH: You know I really had a fiery crash.What happened was I got overwhelmed,and it all came to a head.And I didn't miss any medications,I didn't hurt anybody, I didn't miss any dressing changes.I didn't miss any of that.I was still technically fine.
JUDITH [continued]: But compassionately I had lost all my compassion.And I knew I was in trouble.And when you start losing your humanity,you're in the wrong profession.Because that's what nursing is.Nursing is humanity.
DIANA: I think that Judith deals very wellwith the death and dying aspect, and losing the patients.But if you take that and you compound itwith physical exhaustion, with depression,with too much-- too many patientsto see, not enough time in the day, short staffing issues.
DIANA [continued]: When you combine all of that together, it just,it's just too much.
JUDITH: The drug addicts and the peoplewho are really in need of compassion,I was unable to come through.And that saddened me and it made methink I needed to take myself outof the situation for a while.Because I wasn't well.That's when I knew I wasn't well.
DIANA: I think as a nursing directorI need to be more-- I need to be able to stand up for my nursesand say to the powers that be, we can't take another patient.Because I just can't stand my nurses out.
DIANA [continued]: They're all at the end of their rope.
JUDITH: I was suicidal.I had already thought I had a planand I wasn't giving things away or anything,but I thought it would have been--the world would have been a better place without me, betteroff without me.
JUDITH [continued]: Part of me knew that wasn't true, but the bigger part of mewas pulling that way.And I-- the nurse in me couldn't save me, like I usually could.
JUDITH [continued]: The nurse in me was dying, or I wasconsidering another profession.And I'm a nurse.That's what I do.You know?
PATIENT: I don't want it, nah.
CURTIS: He always says that.You notice the cat hasn't been here since this thing hasbeen informated?I said the wrong word.Water squirter.
DIANA: We have a patient who I thinkis definitely not ready to die.
SPEAKER 1: He worked up until two weeks agoas a drug and alcohol counselor.He is a very nice man, but he hasa trach so you have to listen really hard to hear him speak.But he's nice once you-- once youhear him talk he's a nice guy.
CURTIS: What's that?Another notch.So a couple more notches?
DIANA: One of the aides found a note in his roomand written on there said I'm not going to die.And he has terrible head and neck cancer.Tumors just protruding have broken all the waythrough the skin on his neck and he'shad to have a trach put in because the tumors were closing
DIANA [continued]: off his airway.This man is going to die and he's going to die pretty soon.He's still up and walking around, but he is not ready,and he is not willing to face what's happening to him.And if he never does, it's going to be-- it willbe a terrible death for him.
SPEAKER 2: I need a nurse right away,something's wrong with Mr. Shepherd.
SPEAKER 3: We're going to give you some Adavant to calm youdown a little bit OK?
SPEAKER 2: He's got really bad color.
CURTIS: Leave your arm down Mr. Shepherd.
SPEAKER 4: What?Get help?You want to go where?Tomorrow?You want to go.
SPEAKER 4 [continued]: Here.You want to write it?OK.Let me let you write it.Let me clean this.Just relax for me.I gave you some medicine to make you relax OK?OK, I'll leave it.I'm gonna get this-- did somebody fall?
SPEAKER 4 [continued]: Let me see if someone fell.
SPEAKER 3: Hold on Robert.
SPEAKER 4: Yeah, Robert's bed fell.
SPEAKER 2: The bed fell.
SPEAKER 4: The whole bed fell.
SPEAKER 2: Goodness.
SPEAKER 4: Be still, Robert.
SPEAKER 2: No, no, np you're going to bend it.It fell on this thing over here.You gotta-- we're going to need you to--
SPEAKER 4: We have a a wheelchair?Do we have clothes?
SPEAKER 2: Are you dressed?I need you to stand up.You ready?OK?
SPEAKER 4: Come with me, Robert.
SPEAKER 2: You can stay right there.
SPEAKER 4: I'm put him in the chair.You sit there and don't move.Don't move and I'll be back to you OK?Please, want to smoke.
SPEAKER 4 [continued]: Oh not right now.We have a little emergency OK?I want you to relax.Your blood pressure's down a little bit.So right now you don't need to do that.
CINDY: Why prolong somebody's lifewhen they're not going to get betterand they're just going to be in constant freakingpain for the rest of the time.You need to sit down and have a come to Jesus meeting with himand say, look, you know what, this is it.If you want me to put this trach in you're
CINDY [continued]: going to stay alive for a little while but it's going to suck.And that was in a freaking county hospital.These people just need to be shot.They need to think about what the fuckthey're doing to these people.They're not little experimental animals.They're people, and they need to die with some dignity and notso much pain.
CURTIS: No, no medication right now Victor.
VICTOR: Do you have a light?
CURTIS: I have a light if you go out back.
VICTOR: Where are you going to be?Take a left.I'll take you.Did you see that?
CURTIS: Did you do it?
SPEAKER 4: I did it.
CURTIS: He wants it done again.
SPEAKER 4: Oh no.Next Sunday I'm here.You want me to cut it?
CURTIS: We have the wait.
SPEAKER 4: He can come.
CURTIS: I needed this break so bad.You cannot fucking believe it.They're running me like-- I swearit's like Curtis, Curtis, Curtis, Curtis, Curtis, Curtis,Curtis.I keep thinking I'm just going to make itout one of these minutes.
VICTOR: Let me smoke my fucking cigarette,you supplies fucking nigger.
WORKER: I'm not a nigger.
CURTIS: Is Victor coming yet?
INTERVIEWER: He's stuck behind me still.He's swearing up a storm.
CURTIS: And did he call him a nigger yet?
CURTIS: Oh shoot.Now he can't smoke.I was a nigger today too.With that cock sucking nigger.I said that's right.And don't you forget it.
MYRTIS: [MYRTIS Home Health Aide] No, no, no, no, no.Just relax.Relax.Relax.You need more pain medication?
CINDY: I just gave it to him.We just gave him everything.OK, I'm going to get him something.OK?I'll be right back.
MYRTIS: Relax, relax, relax.I can't get you up.I wish I could but you can't.You already fell.And you're short of breath.
MYRTIS [continued]: Try to relax Mr. Shepherd.
CINDY: Mr. Shepherd.I have your pain medication OK?OK.All right.Thank you Myrtis.
INTERVIEWER: Do you like this part of the job?
MYRTIS: Yeah.I think I like this more.
INTERVIEWER: How come?
MERITS: Because they're not suffering anymore.And it makes me appreciate life.
DIANA: The people usually who aren't ready to go,who never reconciled the fact that they're going to die,literally go kicking and screamingand gasping and fighting.And those are, for me those are terr-- I feel like a failurewhen that happens.That gets to me.
DIANA [continued]: [Later that night.Mr. Shepherd dies.]
CURTIS: Let me go ask OK?
INTERVIEWER: What's up?
MYRTIS: We have to take all that stuff off.
INTERVIEWER: Who usually does that?
MYRTIS: We do but I don't think I can handle it.I just got through eating.Yes?
CURTIS: No, we just have to clean him up.No more pain there Phillip.No more pain buddy.You're in Heaven now.Say hi to my grandpa.
CURTIS [continued]: OK.Do you have a bag for his clothes?
INTERVIEWER: Myrna, since you knowthat he was going to go could you tell [INAUDIBLE]
CURTIS: She, during the report she told me.
MYRTIS: I had already told Curtis.I usually call it about right.
CURTIS: She says he's going to go tonight.
CURTIS: Make sure that they don't take these sheets.
MYRTIS: I know, I know.
CURTIS: Lord that's all you need is Davidto be coming down on you again.
HEATHER: Never see anybody suffer [INAUDIBLE].
VICTOR: And there was no need for that.They should not have done that.That was just barbaric.
HEATHER: And actually I'm very glad it went very quickly.He was up walking around today earlier.
CINDY: What Kind of quality of lifedo you have while your head is rotting off of your shoulders,and you can only break through a trach.You have no quality of life.
MYRTIS: And want everybody to know Victor justtold me he loves me.
CINDY: Are you getting married?
MYRTIS: We may get marries.
CINDY: You may get married?I want to be the maid of honor.
HEATHER: I want to be the maid of honor.
CINDY: No, I'm going to fight for this position.
HEATHER: Was he serious?
MYRTIS: He was very serious.He looked up and said, I love you.
HEATHER: That's good.That is good actually.
MYRTIS: After what just happened I really needed that.
VICTOR: You are a mess.
CURTIS: I know girl.You don't have to tell me.I already know.I'm worn out and I just got here.
DIANA: I don't think we've had a heavy house,a house this heavy ever.
DIANA: Yeah, as far as just so much demand,you know, emotional demand being placed on the staff.
SPEAKER 2: It's kind of been quietin the house lately hasn't it?
CURTIS: Yeah, except for watching Victor.
DIANA: [SINGING] You must have been a beautiful baby.We see a lot of mental illness here,because we got a reputation that we reallyweren't working for of being good with difficult patients.
CURTIS: Don't get sassy.What?Give me that cigarette now.Give me that one.
VICTOR: I want that cigarette.I want it.
CURTIS: You can't talk to me like that.
VICTOR: I won't talk to you like that.
CURTIS: He's really saying he loves me.But in a different language.Huh Victor.
VICTOR: I didn't tell you I loved you, you fucking fool.
CURTIS: See, all the nice, kind words he says to me.
CINDY: This has been the week from Hell.I kid you not.The week from Hell.
INTERVIEWER: How so?
CINDY: I worked 12 hours on Mondayand I was in tears two, three times.It was just, shit just stuff.Nobody died or anything like it was juststuff going on constantly.And it was like I couldn't keep up.
CINDY [continued]: Bob?Oh, Bob.Bob, you made a mess.Yeah we had a-- oh Lord have mercy.Shut your door honey.I don't want you to have to look at all that.We need to get a mop and some gloves and you back in bed.
CINDY [continued]: What did you-- Here we go.She's getting it, baby.OK, Bob.Let's go.We're going to get up now OK?
CINDY [continued]: 1, 2, 3, all right.Nurse, what do you, what do you-- you want me to mop this?
WORKER: I go it.
CINDY: You got this?OK.Yes, and the Governor would like to cut hospice benefitsfrom patients.Mother fucker.See, his family doesn't want anythingto do with him because he's gay.
CINDY [continued]: OK.Now that sucks.And that's between them and God.And that's their problem to deal with.But, people have to be cared for.
WORKER: Sweetheart.If you just lay down and relax OK.It will be a lot easier for you.
CURTIS: Sarah, I'm going to give Victor a Shower.
SARAH: Why, he just had one.
CURTIS: When, this morning?
PATIENT: Where are you going?
CURTIS: Are you done?
CURTIS: I'll get you something.Well, I'll give him this.Yeah, just leave it there.Just let him eat over it.
SARAH: He was like I don't want to be bothered.You take it.
CURTIS: He does that.
PATIENT: Take it away.Take it away.
SPEAKER 2: Does he have a band-aid on his face?Victor go to your room right now.Go to your room right now.Victor needs some attention.He's pulled that thing off his face and scratchedand has got blood all over him again.
SPEAKER 2: He just did it a half hour ago.
CINDY: Well then I'll go bandage it all up.OK.Let's take your medicine.
VICTOR: Morphine pills?
CINDY: No, no they're not morphine pills.They're just going to make you feel a little better.Will you lay down for a little while?And then I'll come and check on you?OK?I stayed up until 1: 00 in the morning working on the nursingschedule and home health aide schedule last night so Ididn't have to work on it tomorrow.
CINDY [continued]: Because I'm not doing it.That's it.Done with it.They don't have enough staff.I can't squeeze a home health aide out of my ass.Or a nurse.So they're short.I don't know what they're going to do.I have a suspicion I'll be working short numerous nights.There's not much I can do about it.
CINDY [continued]: [When Sam came to Wells House he was told he had three monthsto live] [He has been at Wells House more than a year.]
VICTOR: The western atmosphere is [INAUDIBLE]
CURTIS: Don't cuss.Don't use that language.
SAM: Hey man, you just shut the Hell up.
CURTIS: Sam, Sam, he can't help it.
SAM: Yeah, he can help it.
CURTIS: No he can't.
SAM: He doesn't need to be cussing like that with ladiesout here.
CURTIS: Sometimes you go off.
SAM: I'm a lady and I don't cuss like that.
CURTIS: Well you were brought up properly.You don't show your knees either do you?
CURTIS: Well, me and my lover broke up last night.We did but we made up.He told me, I'm finished with this, I said me too, good-bye.Then I got my clothes on and started to walk out the door,I forgot his car was parked behind mineso I couldn't go anywhere.
CURTIS [continued]: Or I would have left.
VICTOR: Like time in an hour glass.
CURTIS: Yeah, time in an hour glass.
VICTOR: These are the days of our fucking lives.
CURTIS: Yeah, days of our lives.
MYRTIS: Sam is not well.
CINDY: No Sam is not well.Sam is just a fighter.
SAM: My Gatorade.There's nothing like kicking back.watching the History Channel, and drinking my Gatorade.Drink that Gatorade.
INTERVIEWER: Can you hear it with your music on too?
SAM: Yeah, I can hear it.I don't know why I listen to it like that.
MYRTIS: He wanted to go, so I couldn't sleep.You know what I mean?
CINDY: It may just be one of things where we just find him.
MYRTIS: He may not even go through the transition part.
CINDY: It just may happen.To
MYRTIS: It just may happen.You know what I mean?
CINDY: And the mother fucker better not do it on my shift.
MYRTIS: Excuse me.[INAUDIBLE]
CINDY: No, I just mean in general,I'm sick of people dying on my shift.You know, I could do with a good monthof nobody dying on my shift.Die on Felix's shift for God's sakes.
INTERVIEWER: Why is it so quiet in here?What?What?
CURTIS: Diana's quitting.
INTERVIEWER: Since when?
CURTIS: She told me this morning.
INTERVIEWER: To do what?
CURTIS: She hasn't decided yet.
INTERVIEWER: Why is she quitting?
CINDY: It sucks what's going on with Di.David Is just saying no to having Registry come in here.Because there is a financial crunch.And the Diana thing is, he is like, no Registry.If no one can cover the shift you have to cover it.So, from what I understand, Diana you know,
CINDY [continued]: told David no I'm not going to do this.And if that's what you want me to doI'm going to give my 30 day notice.And he said fine.You can't just expect nurses to work 50 hours a week,or 60 or 70 hours a week.It just doesn't-- it's insane to expect somebody to do that.I've tried just doing four hours of overtimeand I can't handle it emotionally.
CINDY [continued]: It's just too draining on me.It's too physically and mentally draining me.[Diana has two weeks of unused vacation.The administration asks her to use it,and to leave immediately.]
DIANA: [SINGING] Neither one of uswants to be the first to say good-bye.[Diana's last shift.]
DIANA: So what's up you guys?
INTERVIEWER: What's up with you?
DIANA: Well, I turned in my 30 day resignation.Just administrative differences.All hospices that do any Medical areunder tremendous financial strain right now.Because, and are in fear of more financial strain.Any CLHF building, which we're a CLHF, Congregate Living Health
DIANA [continued]: Facility, right now has no way to bill for their rooms.Because Medical changed around their buildingand forgot to include this kind of a CLHF.So we have no way to bill for any of these rooms.That's a huge amount of money every month,unbelievable amount, it keeps this program going.So that's an understandable-- I understandwhy he says no Registry.
DIANA [continued]: I totally understand that.And he has-- he's only trying to protect the financial viabilityof our program.But I can't let my own health, emotional or physical health,go down the drain because of that.I love my job.I love this work.But it can't be my life.
DIANA [continued]: That's what I have learned, for my own self preservation I haveto do something other than this to stay healthy,physically and emotionally.And that's probably one of the biggest reasonsthat I've turned in my resignationis that I don't feel that I can stay emotionally and physicallyhealthy and stay here, and have to work that much,and have to work those kind of shifts.
DIANA [continued]: I can't do it.I've encouraged everybody to stay, and to continueto be a part of this.Because this is so unique and so awesome.And that they shouldn't feel like theyneed to leave out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.Because they won't get this experiencing anywhere else.
DIANA [continued]: And this is a really great experience.All endings I think are sad.But I've had moments of feeling excited too.You know like what's next?What's next will be exciting.It's just hard to say good-bye.I think that's the sad part is it's hard to say good-bye.
DIANA [continued]: [Two weeks later.]
CINDY: Yeah, he's pretty much declined over the weekend.It got-- he made significant transition yesterday.Yesterday afternoon he was able to take his pills orallybut now he's-- last night I had to give him his pain medicationof long acting stuff rectally.
CINDY [continued]: And he didn't even respond.So, this is just going to be a real hard one for everybodyI think.He was a big personality in the house.Big personality.OK, I have to go make rounds some more.I'm going to have to like get my pills ready.[SAM'S GIRLFRIEND & HER TWIN SISTER]
SAM'S GIRLFRIEND: I wonder whose Pepsi that is?
TWIN SISTER: I don't know who's Pepsi that is.
WORKER: I think it was Nadine's and she left it.
SAM'S GIRLFRIEND: Is she gone?We'll drink it.Might as well.
CINDY: There was one tray left.She's going to cut the hamburger in half for youand there's some soup and green beans.OK.Sam's girlfriend and sister have been up hereand all they're concerned about is his money,his stuff, and his cigarettes.Is he dead yet?What's going to happen to his stuff.
CINDY [continued]: Money's gone.That went to the mortuary.They don't know that.They'll probably just have a screaming ninny fit overthat but-- at least he's not going to go to the countymorgue and his body sit God knowswhere for God knows how long.Because that's another situation,that because he was a drug addicthis family doesn't want anything to do with him.
WORKER: I don't know how you want to do it.
SAM'S GIRLFRIEND: Thank you so much.Oh my God, food.This is good.It's good, Sam.
CURTIS: I believe everybody goes to Heaven.
CURTIS: Uh huh, because this is hell.
CINDY: I'm just giving you your pain medicationand then we're gonna change you OK?
WORKER: Do you want to do the poop?
CINDY: I can clean the poo, it's OK.
WORKER: You sure you want to do the poop?
CINDY: I can do the poop.I'm qualified.I have a license to clean poop.Everything's fine.Everything's fine.I'll see ya-- I'm going to be here tomorrow OK?
CINDY [continued]: I love you Sam.It's OK Sam.It's OK.It's all right.
CINDY [continued]: I'll be back in to check on you before I leave OK?But we're right outside the door honey.And we're all checking on you.All the time we're looking in on you.We've got the door open.So there's always somebody checking on you.So don't worry about that OK?
CINDY [continued]: Doesn't matter if you're gay, straight, what kind of diseaseyou have, if you've been a drug addict,or what you've done in the past.Hello, they're dying.It's time to make your peace.It's time to say good-bye.You know.[Three days later]
CURTIS: I already told him this morning he should go.He'll go soon.
CINDY: Right now I'm just trying to get caught upon all my paperwork because I have a sneaking suspicionthings are going to get busy here in a minute.And I still have to get my 9: 00's ready.And so I'm trying to get all this, excuse me,BS work done so I'll have time to deal with the real issuesas they come up.Because I'm not staying here tonight.
VICTOR: You fucking queer.
CINDY: Victor, go down here.
VICTOR: For a little bit of soap.A little bit of fucking soap.A little bit of fucking soap.My soap.You god damn fucking nigger.
WORKER: She loves his hair.
CURTIS: Thank you.
INTERVIEWER: Did you take the soap?
CURTIS: Yeah, I did again.
INTERVIEWER: Is that what happened?
CURTIS: Yeah.He's only allowed to wash his hair once a day.He will wash it up to five times a day.So.
WORKER: Every time you look his hair is wet.
CINDY: There's no coverage for the next three eveningsbecause there was the death in one of the employees' families.And so she is unable to work.I am on vacation.I am not canceling my-- I was notasked to cancel my vacation, and I'm not canceling my vacation.It is my six month anniversary.Although to some that may seem insignificant.
CINDY [continued]: It's not to me.And so if there is no coverage found,Felix is going to be stuck here Thursday and Fridayfor 16 hours.
WORKER: That's a definite no.
CINDY: That's a definite no.Great.OK.Ask him if he'll just come in from 7 to 11.And Felix can do 12 hours.I mean, come on, let's get creative.
WORKER: Yeah, but he works out in the filedand I know what he's going to say.
CINDY: I know, but tell him that there is absolutely nobody.
WORKER: He's going to say no.
CINDY: Please explain that we are very, very desperate.
WORKER: That's not going to do no good.They're going to make you cancel your vacation.
CINDY: OK, Alma so you thought maybeyou could come in for a little while on Thursday?No, no we, don't need any help on Tuesday.Can you hold on just a minute?I can't pick it up is it on hold?Put it on hold please.You hung up on her.
CINDY [continued]: All right.Bye bye.That woman has her fucking RN and I swear to Godshe's the stupidest woman I've ever come acrossin my whole frigging life.I don't know what to do Felix.Oh, he's the same.His respirations are just becoming more and more shallow.And I talked to his girlfriend Sharon
CINDY [continued]: and she has told him to go ahead and let go and go.A priest has come by and seen himand done what I guess is the equivalent of the last rites.I mean I feel really bad Felix for you.I mean I feel really bad for you,but I think they just need to break off and get Registry.Because they cannot expect you to work 16 hours a day three
CINDY [continued]: days in a row, that's absolutely absurd.
CINDY: No?Everybody says no.I don't know what they think they're supposed to do.I mean you know for Christ's sakes.I'm leaving my house at 8: 30 in the morning.
CURTIS: I don't know why he wants his hand up therelike that.I gave him his teddy bear.Hold on to his teddy bear, or whatever you call it.The lion.He's go a really fast pulse.His pulse Is like 122, that's real fast.And his blood pressure is really high.He's cold.He's starting to shut down little by little.
CURTIS [continued]: See his feet are completely cold and his legs right hereare warm.So he's starting to shut sown.
WORKER: He's transitioning.He has the gurgle.So, he may go before we leave, or justas we get ready to leave.
CINDY: Dan has been a constant fighterall the way through this.He just fights, and fights all the way through this.I just care a lot.I just-- you know, it's hard.It's real hard.I mean, I make sure that I have my two days offbecause this is such an emotional job.And it's so it's just real draining on you.
CINDY [continued]: I mean, but it's a good drain.I feel good.I feel like I've accomplished something when I go home.And I feel like when I come to work and people are like,oh Cindy you're here, you know, I feel good.You know?When they get like this I just wishthey would go ahead and die because Iknow they're miserable.
CINDY [continued]: You have to have somebody or somethingthat you believe in to get you through this every day.It's just sad.A lot of it is sad.You all right Sam?It's OK.
CINDY [continued]: Everything's OK.You don't have to be scared.Everything's going to be OK.He's a fighter.
CINDY [continued]: I hope he goes tonight.He really needs to.He's just struggling at this point.He couldn't make peace with his family.And that sucks.[CINDY went on her vacation]
CINDY [continued]: [SAM died two days later]
DIANA: It was hard to leave.I don't know what else to say about it.But, I knew that it was time for me to go.I was really getting to the point where I was just empty.Didn't have, there wasn't just anything left in me to giveand I was starting to scare myself, because I found myself
DIANA [continued]: withdrawing from my patients.Which was a new thing for me.And not-- I was OK as long as they were doing good,but as soon as they started going southI started staying away.And that really bothered me.So I just took as long as I felt like I needed.And it's just been good.
DIANA [continued]: I've been flying all over the place.I've been being silly, you know.Been just irresponsible.It's been so many years since I've been irresponsible.I can't even begin to tell you.I know that the staff was sad, very sad, when I left.
DIANA [continued]: And the hardest thing, the hardest part of leavingwas leaving my staff.You know, was leaving my nurses and wasleaving the rest of the team.And it was a lot like a family breaking up.Because I kind of felt like the mother,and I think the nurses kind of looked at me as the mother hen.My hope was that when a new Director of Nursing
DIANA [continued]: came that it would be a fresh start.And hopefully some of the issues that I wasn't able to resolvewould be resolved under a new regime.And that was my hope.
INTERVIEWER: If someone were to ask youwhether you feel that the nature of the job and the placeand the people involved made it a lot harder to leavethan a different job, what would you say.
DIANA: Oh yeah.I think so.Because of the nature of what we do.Because of the sacredness, I think, of what we do.And the depth of the ties that we build with each other.Because we cry together.Because we usher out the dying into a new life.Because we do all of these things
DIANA [continued]: that are not the things that peopledo in their every day jobs.The things that we do are different from the average.I think that that creates a bond between us thatis maybe stronger sometimes.Or different, maybe not stronger, but just differentthan a bond that's created in a different kind of a job.
DIANA [continued]: My last day I just I went home.I was driving home and I stopped.I pulled over and I pulled over in front of my houseand I called Felix by mistake.I just automatically dialed that number.I was trying to dial somebody else.And when he answered the phone I just burst into tears.I just cried.I said Oh my God Felix.You know I cant believe this is over.
DIANA [continued]: But, I certainly don't regret a minute of working there.[MUSIC]
VICTOR: If you put some water on their first it will help it.
CURTIS: This is shaving cream.We don't need to put water.How many years have you been shaving?
PATIENT: Are we going to eat?
CURTIS: We already had dinner daddy.
CURTIS [continued]: [Because I could not stop for death,He kindly stopped for me.The carriage held but just ourselves And immortality.EMILY DICKINSON][Wells House continues to provide outstanding careto terminally ill patients, though constantly underthe threat of national and state cuts to hospice.]
CURTIS [continued]: [Due to this outstanding care, a few of the patients improvedand were discharged from hospice.][Kim, Victor, Robert, and Mr. Sakuda spent their last daysat Wells House.][After an extended leave, Judith returned to Wells House.Six months later, she left to work with Diana at anotherhospice.]
CURTIS [continued]: [Cindy left Wells House a few months after we finishedfilming.][Curtis Stayed]
CURTIS: Painful coming into the worldand it's painful going out.Isn't that a bitch.My ear's killing me.
Stopping for Death
View Segments Segment :
Hospice is a place where terminally ill people go to live and be cared for until they die. This documentary follows the staff and patients of Wells House as they face the ups and downs of palliative care and dying. The nurses face staff shortages, funding cuts, compassion fatigue, and the inevitable grief over beloved patients. Many of the patients face death estranged from their families due to sexuality, drug use, or AIDS diagnoses.
Hospice is a place where terminally ill people go to live and be cared for until they die. This documentary follows the staff and patients of Wells House as they face the ups and downs of palliative care and dying. The nurses face staff shortages, funding cuts, compassion fatigue, and the inevitable grief over beloved patients. Many of the patients face death estranged from their families due to sexuality, drug use, or AIDS diagnoses.