This forum was here for me years and years ago when my mom was dying. Several years after that I became my dad's caregiver and the forum was here for me then too. My dad died 6 years ago.

I've had a good friend for 22 years. He's now 77 years old. We used to go to lunch on a regular basis and met up with other friends for dinner. I talk to him about twice a month. Over the years he's slowed down a bit. No more lunches or dinners. I've offered to do his grocery shopping but he's respectfully declined. A few years ago I asked him if he'd keep my name and number in a prominent place so if he should get sick someone would call me. I sent him 2 laminated cards with my contact info on them. I wasn't convinced he'd ever use them. He's an introvert, he likes his solitude and I didn't want to encroach upon that.

Earlier this week I received a call I'd been half-expecting for years. My friend was in the hospital, he didn't know which one. He left me a voice mail asking me to find him. I found him immediately and called him. He sounded clear, alert, but sleepy. He said he's come to the end of the road and that there's nothing left for him to do. He wasn't maudlin or depressed as my friend is the eternal optimist. He said he's ready for whatever comes next.

Later that evening I called the hospital to find out how he was. I knew they probably wouldn't tell me anything and they didn't so I just asked the nurse if he was comfortable and she said yes, he is, he's in bed. I was relieved.

I visited him the next day. Knowing that he's a very private person I kind of tapped dance around getting my contact information into his file. I asked him if that would be alright. I told him I'd like to be able to call to see how he is and that it might be a good idea if he had someone advocating on his behalf. I didn't think he'd go for it but he did. He was all in. Kept telling everyone who entered the room that I was to have full disclosure to his information. I think he enjoyed it. He has no family. He hasn't had family since I met him 22 years ago. No long-lost nephew, no ex-wife, no 3rd cousin twice removed. He is all alone in the world and he's dying and he needs someone to be there for him and I want to be that person.

He was moved to a hospice facility yesterday. I tried to call him there but couldn't reach him. I couldn't reach anyone. But he called me later. He said he was confused, that he didn't know where he was, and that he was scared. My dad died of liver disease and I would get the exact same calls from my dad towards the end. I told my friend that I would call the nurses station and see to it that he got something to help him sleep. I didn't make that call. It was his first night there and I didn't want to start off by maybe making a nuisance of myself with the staff. And he told me that a nurse had been in and said she would be back with something to help him sleep. But my friend was disoriented and didn't know if the nurse was coming back at all. It was 9pm and I didn't want to call there and start hollering about my friend not getting his medication especially since he was confused and might have gotten it and forgot.

What am I doing?! I'm a full-time student. I can barely keep up with my schoolwork as it is. I was in class a couple of days ago and became so overwhelmed and anxious I walked out of class and didn't go back. I drove home and took a nap!

The way I look at this is that I have made a commitment. I am responsible for ensuring my friend gets what he needs from hospice. I know once hospice becomes involved it's a game-changer and my friend may be a little confused at first. He's in a new facility with new staff and it may take him some time to become acclimated.

Can I take this on?? I guess I already have.

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Thank you to everyone who posted. The posts were an affirmation that I'm not insane for being involved with my friend as he nears the end of his life.

He was transferred to a SNF Thursday evening. I saw him Friday afternoon. His bed was pushed up against the wall and he had nothing to look at but a dresser. He was yelling, in pain, furious and confused. My first thought was, "Has he been like this since he arrived yesterday??" I sat beside him and held his hand like Daughterof1930 mentioned. I assessed the situation (having worked in hospice myself for many years) and after a little calming I went to find the nurse to see if he could have pain medication. The hospice team came in right about this time. They were meeting him for the first time. And with me comforting him and the hospice team getting organized we were able to get my friend calmed down in about 45 minutes and after pain medication. The hospice team saw the way his bed was arranged where he had nothing to look at and we rearranged his bed. After a while he was calm again. I kept holding his hand because that is my job. I'm relieved hospice is on the case now and their care is very thorough. When I first arrived and he was so upset he denied wanting hospice, he wanted to go home or go back to the hospital (2 familiar places). But once his pain was under control he understood that hospice was there upon his request.

The balance between school and this commitment will be challenging but school always comes first. I'll have to work hard to maintain my priorities and now that hospice is involved they'll be sending out nurses, bath aides, volunteers, and a chaplain to spend time with him which takes some of the pressure off me. He did sign a waiver giving me access to his health information so I can at least call when I'm not there and find out how he is. I brought him some favorite candy and tomorrow I'm bringing him some of his favorite music. But today I study. And rest.

I'm so grateful for all of your responses. Thank you again.
Helpful Answer (24)
You are a very kind caring person - certainly not insane!!! I'm not even close to needing assistance, much less hospice, but I would LOVE to have a friend like you!!! Like your friend, I would likely decline the previous offers of assistance, at least initially, but would certainly appreciate them!

I see you did get him to sign the medical waiver - at least that allows you to be in the know and perhaps advocate if/when he needs one. Bless you for being being his friend and being there in his time of need!
Eyerishlass, you've been a valuable, helpful, analytical, rationnal and compassionate poster here long before I began posting a few or more years ago.   Your advice has been solid, straightforward, and helpful.   I don't recall ever knowing you to make decisions that aren't grounded in reality, and experience. 

Should you remain involved?   I think as you observed, you are and probably should, to be true not only to yourself and your very compassionate, sympathetic and understanding nature, but because another human being in need is reaching out to you.   And in these days of such hostility and turmoil, touching someone else's life may mean more than any one of us can realize.

I might tell my instructor though, just to be on the honest side if you need to leave class.   I've found that instructors know who the sincere students are and who the goof-offs are, and make allowances accordingly.   

I once contacted my Stat instructor in a panic b/c my car battery was completely dead, on the night of either a mid-term or final, I don't recall which.  I couldn't afford to fail b/c of one missed exam; I needed 2 Stat classes for my Econ curriculum.

Her advice was just calm down, call her when the car was mobile, and she'd arrange for me to take the exam at a convenient time.  

People respect honesty and a compassionate and mature explanation.

And I think that compassionate people such as you respond to situations requiring that quality, more than people who lack it.   Some people have it, some don't.   I think those in positions of service (especially military, medical and education) develop a caring ability that many don't have, through no fault of their own.   So, recognize that, and act accordingly, which I think you know you will. 

He didn't want help when he didn't need it, but he does now, and I give him credit and respect for wisely reaching out when he's in a challenging situation.

BarbB hit the nail on the head; caring for someone can heighten compassion, and if not fulfilled, I suspect you may chastise yourself for some time.  

There are times when most of us need a beaconing light to help guide us, and you are that light for him.   

I think I would have a good discussion with the admin staff though to explain the situation and your involvement.     They may be able to supplement (as the staff at my father's hospice facility) did.   There may be "friendly visitors" as some facilities refer to them who could also visit, if for no reason other than to just provide contact.    WindyRidge extended himself this way to hospice patients.

I wish you both peace on this challenging but necessary phase of life, and strength as you help this friend on his own last journey.
Helpful Answer (12)
Awesome post!!
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What a great friend you are! Very compassionate of you to care for someone alone in this world through his final days. You can decide your level of involvement here, do what you have the time and emotional strength to do. I used to tell people that simply coming to hold my mother’s hand was a gift to her. Don’t worry over the big things, just hold his hand
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Eyerishlass Sep 2019
Thank you for your comment, Daughterof1930. I agree. Amidst all the chaos and confusion of his first full day in the SNF I held his hand.
What a very touching story . I do some hospice volunteer work, just visit folks, provide some companionship. Some folks are like your friend, they have no one. I don’t let it consume me or take over as a patient advocate.

This man is dying. Most hospice organizations are very good and compassionate. There’s nothing you can do to change this outcome. Give him whatever time you can afford. Keep your life on track. You’re a good person.
Helpful Answer (10)

I don't think you need to "take anything on". Just be a visitor, a friend, just "be there". Don't do any "management". Transfer from a mindset of "doing" to "being".
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robertclyde Sep 2019
right on!!!! this "friend" is totally responsible for being in this situation -------- like ALL of us!!!!!! its like the wonderful government wanting to totally take over everything for everybody (including all of their money!! first )
Given your history you need to know that your tendency may be to make this an obsession, rather than being a supportive acquaintance when there is no one else. You are not his family, nor have you been.
I am one who would not be asking to be in on his private information.
Are you certain that you are not looking for a sort of subconscious excuse to let school slide. You are finally going through with school and your life. This man has not been your friend, nor has he in the past accepted your friendship.
I would visit him every few days. Let him speak about what he would like to speak about. He is in hospice now and looking at the end of a life he has lived as an introvert. As an introvert myself I can sympathize.
You have your life. You have your history. This sweet gentleman is not it. If you can manage to keep this in some perspective it would be very kind to visit him. IF you have time and can still keep up your studies.
My opinion and mine alone. You will make your own choices. You have been clear in your post that you understand that, for the most part, when able, this gentleman did not invite you into his life. If you can be some small comfort now at the end of his life, without giving up moving on with your own life, that is very sweet.
Helpful Answer (7)
"This man has not been your friend, nor has he in the past accepted your friendship."

What makes you say this? OP clearly stated "I've had a good friend for 22 years." and described some of their interactions.

Having someone decline assistance offered, such as grocery shopping, or call if you need anything does not negate friendship. Those who take advantage of offers like this (not gracefully accepting help, but abusing the offers) are less likely to be considered "friends." Withdrawing from former activities and getting together also doesn't negate friendship. He is/has been declining in health, and that is the reason he is/has been backing off activities and communication. Clearly when he did have the need, he reached out to OP. Isn't that what friends are for?

OP should continue friendship and offer what comfort she can, so long as it doesn't get her too involved/bring about stress/anxiety due to past memories.
I worry often about people who can be taken advantage of when they find themselves in vulnerable situations.
I care for two amazing people now, one who is 3 1/2, and one who is 91, and I am not in a position to volunteer to help another person, so I am very appreciative of what you’ve considered on behalf of your friend.
It seems from what you’ve described that you’re certainly more than capable, and also knowledgeable, respectful, and appropriately dignified.
Do you know through which agency your friend’s care is being managed? Could he have progressed this far through the system without some sort of caseworker being involved?
Maybe contact social service at the hospice setting and let them know that as a friend, you’d like to be helpful in any things he might need outside of his regular care?
At 77, he may, as you know, be “eligible” for hospice without actually facing his demise, in which case you might be able to serve him in additional capacities that would not necessarily consume a large part of your time, but could be of great value to him.
Blessings on you if you will accept the responsibility of this special friendship, otherwise fondest thoughts for caring. Be sure to take good care of yourself as well!
Helpful Answer (6)

Eye, the anxiety you are feeling is almost certainly a reprocessing of the strong emotions that are connected with your parents' decline and deaths.

Can you call today and find out what is going on?

Take care of yourself. ((((Hugs)))))).
Helpful Answer (5)
Eyerishlass Sep 2019

You are absolutely on target with your assessment. I've thought about that a hundred times. My dad's death while in hospice was a hard one and I wasn't with him when he died as it was 10pm and I had gone home already. But I had been there at 9:30pm and my dad had died by the time I got home.

It's like I'm taking care of my dad all over again. Like a do-over. Or taking what I learned from my dad's death and applying it to the current situation. My dad died of liver disease, my friend is dying of liver disease. They're the same age. The confusion and frustration of being in a facility is the same. I've always felt guilty that my dad was alone when he died. Maybe I'm trying to resolve that guilt.

Your comment was spot on.
He's scared. He's alone, and he is dying. I hope you can find some time to be supportive for him. No one should die alone. Since he is already in hospice, he may not remain conscious very long or, for that matter, live very long. You can make a difference for one person. (Also, I hope you believe in God and have witnessed to him about this.) Bless you as you travel this journey.
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I too went back to school as an older adult. I have made it clear to my parents that my education comes first. You need to make that commitment to yourself too.

You cannot allow his situation to derail your education.

My uni offers counseling services to students, no matter what their age. Get in touch with them and set up an appointment. You need to set boundaries for yourself.

If he is in a hospice facility, there are people there to look after his needs, you do not need to manage anything. Turn off your phone during the day and during your study time. You can decide to stop by once a week and call every 2nd day at a set time.

Do not give up on your goals.

It is not easy being a mature student, we already have more responsibilities than our younger classmates. But we have to put ourselves first, especially if we do not have a life partner. Our future depends on our education.

I know it can be hard to put ourselves first. I went through a ugly divorce, the death of a step parent, a financial crisis, loss of a grandchild, and a dear friend being hospitalized since starting back at school. My degree is taking one extra year, but I will be graduating in 2020.
Helpful Answer (4)
You go grrl!!! Its hard when all your family is gone.....its just mom, my sister and me.....i look out for them, the best i can. We have to move forward and do the best we can for ourselves, im so proud for you that you are continuing your education!!! Many blessings to you in the future!!
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