I think of cellphones as intruders into warm intimate interactions, so I silence mine on the way in to a patient’s home. But it can be a different story if the phone is not my own. Last week I visited with the daughter of a patient, who had lots to say about having to be the caregiver without any help from her own family. “Friends do much more than they do,” she said. I asked how she coped with all this. “If it weren’t for God, I don’t know what I’d do.” That was the cue for me to offer prayer, which I only do if I am reasonably certain that is what a family wants and that they are not agreeing to pray just to follow a script for how to please a clergy person. Based on what the daughter said, I chose a prayer about caring for the caregivers.
She liked it so much she wanted a copy. At first I said I did not have any on hand, but then it struck me: smartphone to the rescue. “You could take a photo of the prayer with your phone,” I suggested, as a consolation prize. She did so and then transferred the photo to her Tablet, and she was delighted with it far more than any measly paper copy, because she could enlarge the print and even share it with others. Duh. I just welcomed myself to the 21st century.
Later that same week I had another entree into our century. The patient was devout but could not speak and could not hear well, so her daughter urged me to sing some hymns to her as loudly as I could at her bedside. As I sang Silent Night, (ecumenical rabbi at your service, comfortable enough when stopping at the end of the first verse) her daughter started videotaping me with her phone. “Now I can share this moment with family, and I can play it to Mom again and again,” she said. I joked about becoming famous, and said I was glad that they liked it that much.
Thus time on hospice is not entirely about pain and fear and grief and anger. Thanks to the smartphone, a visit from the hospice team can be pure pleasure for all concerned. I suppose it won’t be long before I have some endearing moment to share about Skype and the like unless you beat me to it first with an anecdote of your own.