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An old man's anecdote

Forgive me if you have heard my story before. Old men tend to be anecdotal.

It concerns an old lady newly admitted to a hospice where I worked. As I did with all patients, I asked how she thought I might be able to help her on what she knew was her final journey.

"What do you expect of me?” I asked.

“If you had asked me that a year or more ago I would have said ‘Use some of those letters after your name. They tell me you are clever, well trained and well travelled and that your peers have honoured you.' But things are different now! What I want from you in the time that is left is….what shall I call it? Hand care.”

“Do you mean manicure?” I asked.

"Oh dear me no! I mean that when you come to see me I may hold your hand to feel safe, and when you come to me and find me asleep you will still touch my hand, and when my time comes one of these lovely nurses or you will hold it as I slip away. You see, dear, there comes a time when a loving hand is more useful than all those letters after your name!"

Busy we certainly are but never too busy to give a moment’s hand care.

This blog is by Dr Derek Doyle OBE, Honorary President of the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care. Recognised worldwide for the contributions he has made to palliative care, he was the first Medical Director of St Columba’s Hospice, the first Chairman of the Association of Palliative Medicine, the founding Editor in Chief of Palliative Medicine and Senior Editor of the first three editions of the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine.

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