I am a palliative care social worker who almost got stuck letting my own mother die in the hospital where she never wanted to be

CommunicationInterprofessionalPalliative CarePalliative Care Community Specialist

This is the final part in a 5 part series  “I am a palliative care social worker….”

I am a palliative care social worker who believes intrinsically that there are things worse than death, who is rooted in the power of language, who provides care in acute settings and understands teaching hospitals, who has made a hundred referrals to hospice – and yet I almost got stuck letting my own mother die in the hospital where she never wanted to be.

Another irony is that we had an extremely positive experience. We were met with kindness, providers were authentic, we got to raid the family snack drawers and stay at her bedside 24 hours a day. I also want to be clear: dying in the hospital is not wrong for everyone, but it would have been wrong for my mom.

I do not intend to point fingers at any one individual – I am devastated by the system. By the lack of education to support providers in how to navigate this, for starters. How dare we cite Medicare expenditures at end of life, shake our heads and say “they just don’t get it” about families, act surprised by goal-incongruent care when I – who have accidentally been training for this experience with my mom through ten years in this field – almost got stuck at so many different points? I also have an incredible family, I speak the language where this care was being provided, I am extremely privileged.

It’s true: I can’t say how else our story would have turned out; these were the twists and turns that became our unique experience of losing mom. But I can guarantee you it wouldn’t have included the hospice angel named James who gave me permission to spend Christmas morning with my young children two days before she died, and whose wisdom gave myself and my family the gift of holding mom’s hands as her faithful heart and lungs gently went silent.

Can we talk about this?






Laurel’s Mom Anne Eskra

                                                                                                    Anne Eskra and Laurel Eskra Tropeano



Part 1, “I am a palliative care social worker who believes intrinsically there are things worse than death” you can find it here  http://www.cupallcare.org/part-1-palliative-care-social-worker-believes-intrinsically-things-worse-death/

Part 2, http://www.cupallcare.org/palliative-care-social-worker-rooted-power-language-part-2/

Part 3, http://www.cupallcare.org/palliative-care-social-worker-provides-care-acute-settings-understands-teaching-hospitals/

Part 4, http://www.cupallcare.org/palliative-care-social-worker-made-hundred-referrals-hospice/


Laurel Eskra Tropeano …After receiving her MSW from New York University,Laurel completed a fellowship in the Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care at Beth Israel Medical Center. After moving to Denver and joining the palliative care community, Laurel serendipitously met like-minded social workers with whom she founded The Holding Group – a social work led consultative palliative care agency that currently provides advance care planning to Kaiser Permanente-Colorado members in long term acute care hospitals.  

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