Steve interviews Ellen Rand – long-time hospice volunteer, author, public speaker, health care journalist, and patients’ rights advocate. 2021 marks the fifth anniversary of her 2016 landmark book, “Last Comforts: Notes from the Forefront of Late Life Care.”
In early 2017, I was just beginning my service as a hospice volunteer and bedside musician. One of the first things I did was to search for books on the subject, figuring that some who had already blazed this path probably wrote about the experience. I found very little. Most of the books I found were very dated or did not have what I was seeking – a comprehensive look at volunteerism in hospice with a particular focus on the personal experience of being with people as they are dying. I was seeking to learn about the particular dynamics of those relationships and what made them important for both patients, their families, and the volunteer.
At about the same I was beginning my own journey, Ellen Rand, a seven-year hospice volunteer and former New York Times columnist, had recently published “Last Comforts.” Today the book is a must-read for volunteers, end-of-life professionals including gerontologists and hospice medical directors, educators in the field of end-of-life care, and families navigating the maze of information about hospice. Perhaps most importantly, it is also for patients seeking to make their own decisions about what the end of their path might look like for themselves. Beyond that, she looks at how all the components of end-of-life care can be improved, from both public policy, medical and humanistic standpoints. It covers such issues as medical and nursing education, dementia care, long-term care alternatives, and challenges faced by minority, gay, and transgender populations. The book is easily comprehensible for both the layperson who is simply trying to figure out how to care for a dying loved one as well as the health care specialist. “Last Comforts” was a Silver Medal Finalist in the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards.