Responding to Patient Expressions of Regret at the End of Life

Betty R. Ferrell, PhD, RN


October 23, 2012

Expressions of Regret at the End of Life

Maureen is a 42-year-old woman with chronic liver failure who is facing the end of life. Maureen was hopeful that she would receive a liver transplant, but she has progressed to what are likely the final days of her life. Maureen is married and has 3 adult sons, all of whom have been very close and involved in her care. Maureen has been hospitalized frequently with uncontrolled symptoms. Tonight on the night shift on the transplant unit, the nurse finds Maureen weeping and very distressed, with shortness of breath and coughing from crying, which is increasing her pain.

Maureen confides in the nurse that she regrets deeply that she has been estranged from her father for the past 10 years, not having spoken to him since he divorced her mother and married a long-time family friend. Maureen says she has ignored her father's communications, feeling obligated to support her mother, who is now in a long-term care/Alzheimer facility. She now regrets that she has not reconciled with her father despite his attempts to do so.