Death Has Many Names
I love learning about different customs and rituals around the world, as death is a universal event that will happen to each of us. We cannot escape it, out run it, or outspend it. It is a fact, and it's imperative that we all start engaging in these conversations.
"This month’s conversation in our series exploring religion and death is with Jacob Kehinde Olupona, a professor of African religious traditions at Harvard Divinity School."
"Death as a palpable force looms large in the Yoruba religious and social consciousness. From cosmology to various ritual practices and genres of oral traditions such as proverbs, poetry and short stories are all brought to bear on the reality of death. Not a day goes by that speakers of the Yoruba language do not make mention of death as both a phenomenon and a certainty".
What would happen if we all chose to find a way to talk about death, dying and grief? Would we learn to be more comfortable with such events? Would we learn that these conversations are not taboo, but yet they are all a natural, fact of life?
Please reach out to begin your own journey with end of life matters.
"Vantage Hospice in Houston saw substantial growth in its patient census during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the company in part attributes to a rising number of patients with advance care plans. Vantage is now calling for initiatives to make advance care planning a standard medical practice".
"The company’s administrator Nicole Knight contends that expanding advance care planning would help bring patients under the wings of hospice earlier in the course of their illnesses".
When most people hear the words "Hospice", they tend to think dying is right around the corner. This is simply not true. What is true is that doctors and health professionals tend to mention hospice at the very end. Thus by the time someone enters hospice, they are at the very last stages of dying.
However, if more people would start having Advance Care Planning conversations with their families and loved ones, it would most often make clear that most would want to have care that brings comfort and aid to the dying and their families.
“Advance care plans provide direction to physicians and loved ones in the midst of a medical crisis,” Knight said “So many patients could have had the opportunity to die comfortably at home instead of alone in the hospital if advance care plans were a standard practice.”
In addition, most people would prefer to die in the comfort of their home, surrounded by loved ones, all while being comforted and in limited pain.
"Advance care planning has been shown to have a significant impact on the quality and experience of life’s final stages, yet broaching these conversations with patients and families involves breaking down walls around end-of-life care. Advocates nationwide are calling for improved strategies to bring the conversation of death into a new light and shift the culture of dying in America".
Please seek out a professional, possibly a Death Doula, that can help to discover what is truly important when nearing the end of life, and what the wishes of the dying are.
The more knowledge we gain from having a necessary conversation, the more we feel in control and fear is lessened.
Why can't we say the word death?
I love this sentence on The Departure Lounge's website! It is very interesting to pay attention to the language most of us use when talking about death - lost the battle, succumbed to the illness, passed away, etc. Why not say death? The more we normalize these words, the more we can speak with compassion and integrity.
"There are many things to think about when it comes to the end of life. Emotionally, how can we come to terms with death? Practically, how can we best prepare for dying? Talking to friends, family and health professionals is an important step".
"Although around a third of us think about death or dying at least once a week, most people find it hard to talk about. Not just with family and friends, but also with the doctors and healthcare professionals that care for us at the end of life".
The Departure Lounge is another tool to be used to discover what a good death has meant for others, and to think about what it might mean for you.
After checking it out, please reach out to a death doula or death midwife, as they have been trained to offer compassionate conversations and care when talking about end of life.
"Life Support takes users on a visual journey from greyed-out visuals to multi-coloured information, featuring such as tips on how to talk to children about death and audio clips from experts in palliative care".
"While Life Support is an online tool that people can use alone, it aims to help its users continue conversations about death offline as well".
Although I think it is great that there are so many different ways to help individuals and loved ones to start the conversations around death, dying and grief, I don't want to rely on tools that may take the "humanity" out of End of Life conversations.
Death is a natural and normal part of life, and the more we learn to be comfortable with discussing all aspects of it, the more we can be emotionally present for the dying. When we are more present, we can focus of loving and supporting everyone involved, which in turn, encourages healing and comfort.
"Long-term-care staff are so swamped with COVID-19 protocols that end-of-life discussions aren’t occurring with residents and families, says a McMaster University professor. Sharon Kaasalainen, a professor in the school of nursing, says she’s hearing from families that they’re feeling excluded from decisions about their loved one’s care".
Covid is putting so much extra stress on the health care providers, and the families of the critically ill. This additional stress is causing harm for everyone involved, from the dying, to the families, to the medical support staff.
Covid has made it very clear to all, that we as individuals and as family, are not prepared for these kind of conversations. It is also showing how waiting until a medical crisis, is not the time to start to have these conversations.
By working together, we can help to bring understanding and compassionate care back to the End of Life experiences.
The role of the death doula: 'We're companions to the dying and their families'
"Death doulas are slowly shifting the way that society perceives mortality".
People often tell me they highly "dislike" (this is a nice word for what they say) the term Death Doula. This isn't surprising because we are a death phobic society, so any mention death is seen as morbid and distasteful. However, death is a part of life....a very natural part of life. Why do we use language, such as lost or passed? Why are we opposed to death and dying? The more we normalize End of Life matters (death, dying, after death and grief) the better we can get in touch with our relationships with death.
Reach out to begin to normalize a very natural part of life.
When the time comes
"Families of older people dying of progressive chronic disease often feel insufficiently informed about the course of the illness, so when death occurs it can be felt as a surprise. However, this misperception of an ‘unexpected death’ could be minimized if only we provided our patients and their loved ones with information that includes an overall estimation of time to death".
Why do we often wait until someone is dying or until there is a medical emergency to talk about our End of Life wishes? Does it make sense to wait? The fact is, we are all going to die - most of us just do not know when. Take the time now, while you are of clear mind and start thinking about what is important to you, not only now, but for when the "unexpected" occurs.
Normalizing End of Life conversations is what A Necessary Conversation does. Please reach out to begin your journey today.
"The COVID pandemic has brought new urgency to the need for end-of-life planning".
"If you're looking for a unique gift for Valentine's Day, you might consider giving some peace of mind -- by deciding and sharing what type care you'd want in a health crisis".
Planning for a future health crisis is not easy, but it is necessary.
Please contact Dee Dee to begin preparing now......or give this as a Valentine, birthday, anniversary gift! Just don't wait!
"Researchers out of Johns Hopkins University analyzed data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) of Medicare beneficiaries with and without cognitive impairment who died at 65 or older to see if place of death affected their satisfaction of end-of-life care".
As you have read in the previous articles, Covid has shifted families wishes to have their loved ones die at home.
If you read this article, it points out that dying at home often leaders to more satisfactions in end of life care.
I don't know about you, but I opt for better end of life care, and if possible, to die in my home, surrounded by those I love.
I know this isn't for everyone, but again, this is why its so important to to Advanced Care Planning now, and update it every few years, or after a significant life event, so that your medical wishes are taken care of.
This article is very similar to the one above, however, this is from the perspective of a Mortuary owner, Brian Simmons.
"He understands all too well why people are choosing to die at home: His own 49-year-old daughter succumbed to the coronavirus just before Christmas at a Springfield hospital, where the family only got phone updates as her condition deteriorated".
“The separation part is really rough, rough rough,” said Simmons. “My daughter went to the hospital and we saw her once through the glass when they put her on the ventilator, and then we never saw her again until after she died.”
"Before the pandemic, hospice workers cared for patients dying of heart disease, cancer, dementia and other terminal illnesses in long-term care facilities and, to a lesser extent, home settings. Many families hesitated to go the die-at-home route because of the many logistical challenges, including work schedules and complicated medical needs".
The article makes the very valid point, that regardless if you want to die at home, or in a facility/hospital, these wishes needs to be written and discussed with loved ones and the Health Care Agent.
Could End of Life Doula's becoming mainstream? Not too fast, but it's a good start.
The Rev. Gail Cantor, director of spiritual life at Endicott College, will visit "The Morning Show" on Thursday, Feb. 11, to talk about her training as an end-of-life doula.
Check out the links below:
"The Morning Show" airs Thursday at 9 a.m. on Channel 9 and WJOP (FM 96.3) and livestreams on YouTube (click on YouTube at NCMHub.org). After broadcast, look on the YouTube Playlist for “The Morning Show.”
"Each show also airs on WJOP on Friday at 8 a.m. and the following Tuesday at 4 p.m. and Wednesday at 3 p.m., and is available on the Sound Cloud (click on the cloud at NCMHub.org)".
"More Americans are making the decision to have their terminally ill loved ones die at home rather than in nursing home and hospice settings. For many families, home is a better setting than the terrifying scenario of saying farewell to loved ones behind glass or during video calls amid the coronavirus pandemic".
As this pandemic has shown all of us......life is very fragile and highly unpredictable.
Lets take the lessons we have learned from this pandemic, and start taking action to be better prepared in our End Of Life decision making, no matter where you and your loved ones are in the life spectrum.
What was the inspiration for End-of-Life University?
As a former hospice medical director, Dr. Wyatt spent most of her career focusing on the challenging times of life. She understands what it’s like to deal with life-limiting illness and what it takes to meet those challenges face-to-face and still find meaning, joy and love in life. She started End-of-Life University because there is a desperate need for education in our society about all aspects of the end of life, from the importance of advance directives, to care options for the dying, funeral and burial alternatives, and grief and bereavement assistance for loved ones. She wants to improve the way we care for the dying in our society, decrease the fear of death and help people live fully even in the midst of suffering.
Tell us more about EOL U:
End-of-Life University provides multiple access points for educational resources about death and dying that can reach all interested members of our society--from lay people to professionals, youth to elders--through interviews, articles, podcasts, books, videos, and teleseminars. In addition, EOLU serves as an information hub where providers in one discipline of care can connect with other workers in their own field or learn about current practices in other areas of end-of-life care.What are the many benefits EOLU offers?
What would you like others to know about EOL U?
The entire movement to improve care at the end of life grows stronger when we can network and build bonds between us. End-of-Life University is committed to collaboration, connection, and co-creating with all who are working toward this shared goal.
In your experience, what keeps people from using your organization and talking about death, dying and grief?
Most people avoid talking about death, dying and grief because of their fear of the unknown. Since our society shields us from exposure to normal and universal experiences of death as part of life, we don’t have the opportunity to develop a comfort level with the subject, which causes great harm. Even one simple conversation about death can begin to open a person’s heart and mind to be more receptive and less fearful about the end of life.
Please tell us more about your own story with death and dying:
My own exploration of death and dying occurred after the tragic suicide death of my father many years ago. From the depths of my grief I decided to become a hospice volunteer and pursued that work for most of my medical career. There I learned the spiritual lessons I needed in order to heal my grief and also to begin living life in a new way: fully present to each moment and able to love, forgive, and “go with the flow” through all of life’s challenges. I’ve been deeply inspired to share this wisdom through my books and podcasts in hopes that others will be blessed by it as well.
Transformational Teaching with Dr. Karen Wyatt - Spiritual MD