“When my father awoke at 7 a.m., I happened to be in the room, in the middle of this crisis, with a camera,” Robert Nickelsberg wrote in an email. He was recounting the last days of his father, Harold Nickelsberg, who died at the age of 98 on Christmas Day 2014. Robert, a photojournalist, is best known for his work covering conflicts in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Iraq.
In October of 2014, his father fell at home and was taken to the hospital, where an MRI revealed that a hematoma from an earlier, more serious fall was putting pressure on Harold’s brain. In December he began having seizures and was taken to the hospital. After he was released, Robert, his youngest son, arrived at 2 a.m. in San Juan Capistrano, California, where Harold had retired.
“He was surprised to see me,” Robert’s email continued, “gave a genuine smile, asked about the flight and soon expressed an appetite for some food. I started to take pictures, partially out of my nervous reaction to a crisis I felt was going out of control and the need to document this and to stay useful in some way. To create something from this chaos. It’s what I do.”
During Harold’s brief stay at the hospital, it became clear to Robert that when his father returned home, it would have to be to in-home hospice care. Robert arranged for a hospital bed to be put in the den and for a team of nurses to provide round-the-clock care.
Like Harold, the vast majority — about three-quarters — of Americans say they want to die at home, but only 20 percent to 25 percent do. Over the past 10 years, hospice care has become an increasingly popular option for the terminally ill."
Oral history: The last days of Harold Nickelsberg | Al Jazeera America