Death and dying have changed in dramatically in America.
People use to die of old age, in their home, with their families surrounding them. Today, people often die from complications of a disease, at a facility or hospital, surrounded by medical staff, and if lucky, loved ones.
"The dying process today tends to be more extended, in part, because medical treatments can control pneumonia, kidney failure, and other immediate causes of death that accompany cancer, heart disease, and other "slow killers." Because death from these conditions can often be postponed, questions about life-prolonging treatment become central issues for patients, families, and clinicians".
The time is now to look at the importance of gaining end of life knowledge, and understand what medical treatments coincide with what you feel is quality of life. Do not leave these important decisions to others. Only you know what you want, and until you take action to get these decisions in writing, and to appoint a Health Care Advocate, medical choices are open to interpretation by others.
In the "olden days", people had little choice in the manner in which they died, and the location of their death.
Today, however, we are aided by technology, which means our dying process can be prolonged and drawn out. The medical professionals, have changed the way we die, from a natural process to a medical crisis from which we need to be rescued.
Technology does serve a wonderful purpose in health care today, but at a certain point, it might hinder and draw out, the natural death process.
"Today our societal avoidance of death has led, in part, to “medicalized” dying, by which we mean a dying process facilitated or prolonged by medical intervention. Dying has been removed from the home and community and transplanted in the hospital or institution in an attempt to rescue dying patients from death".
One important fact to consider, is this medical technology delaying death "without necessarily promoting the health and healing of patients"? If this answer is yes, is this ok with you and your loved ones?
Now is the time, pre-chaos or pre-illness, to look into these kinds of potential scenarios, and get in writing what is important for you.
End-of-life decisions and care in the midst of a global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
This article talks about how the Covid pandemic have forced health care providers to start having end of life conversations, often very hastily conversations, since the resources for critical care patients have been greatly reduced due to the pandemic.
This pandemic has clearly shown how ill-prepared all of us are for global crises - hospitals, doctors, nurses and of course, we as individuals. We cannot prepare for everything, but we can do our part, to bring less confusion to chaotic situations.
We have the power to have a necessary conversation, and to become very clear what's truly important if we are in an end of life situation. We have the power to make these decisions beforehand. We have the power to let loved ones know what our wishes are. We have the power to appoint a health care advocate. We have the power to get into action.
What is your choice going to be? Wait for a crisis and see how it works out, or take action, and be part of the solution!
Death Anxiety and the Coronavirus
"However, defensive solutions, such as denial and religious beliefs that offer respite from death, attempt to block out the pain but never fully eliminate death anxiety. Death awareness has a powerful effect on every aspect of human life".
"The coronavirus has increased death fears, but peoples’ individual reactions are compounded by their original death anxiety".
Death is always with us. However, the Coronavirus has brought death into our lives on a daily basis. Death anxiety, can lead to all sorts of destructive habits, because of our fears about death.
Take the leap of faith, that you too, can openly discuss death, dying and grief, and learn to fear death less, while exploring your backstory, so that can live fully, in the moment, now.
How Does the Family Narrative Influence the Individual's Ability to Communicate about Death?
The attached study "examines the impact of family narratives on individual women's perspective of death".
"Although the women reported that their families had no narratives or discussions concerning death, each person developed attitudes toward death similar to those of family members".
It it interesting that families usually have rich, oral or written histories, that are passed down by generation. However, any history of death, is usually not spoken about or is limited in details.
If we all started to engage in these conversation, we could begin to normalize these situations. Lets lean into this important part of all of our lives and begin sharing our experiences and emotions with each other.
The Death Positive Movement
""Given the gloom and painful finality with which we speak about death, it’s no wonder that 56.4 percent of Americans are “afraid” or “very afraid” of the people they love dying, according to a Chapman University study".
"The cultural mindset is that it’s something terrible to be avoided — even though it happens to all of us.
But in recent years, people from all walks of life have begun to publicly push back against that oxymoronic idea.
It’s called the death positive movement, and the goal isn’t to make death obsolete. This way of thinking simply argues that “cultural censorship” of death isn’t doing us any favors. In fact, it’s cutting into the valuable time we have while we’re still alive".
Importance of Death Education
"Death education, also called education about death, dying, and bereavement, is based on the belief that death-denying, death-defying, and death-avoiding attitudes and practices in American culture can be transformed, and assumes that individuals and institutions will be better able to deal with death-related practices as a result of educational efforts".
A Necessary Conversation works closely, with those that are willing to transform relationships with death, dying and grief. We cannot change, what we do not acknowledge. Together, we can build a bridge between living and end of life.
"Topics frequently included in formal death education include preparing wills, living wills, and medical directives; life and health insurance options; hospice; stages of death and dying; stages of grief; developmental understandings of death; funeral options; planning one's memorial service or writing one's..."
A Necessary Conversation is here to help you navigate questions, fears, and wishes you may have for end of life.
Please be proactive and take the time now to discover and explain your wishes.
"Dame Cicely Mary Strode Saunders OM DBE FRCS FRCP FRCN (22 June 1918 – 14 July 2005) was an English nurse, social worker, physician and writer. She is noted for her work in terminal care research and her role in the birth of the hospice movement, emphasizing the importance of palliative care in modern medicine".
"Hospice care is a type of health care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient's pain and symptoms and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs at the end of life. Hospice care prioritizes comfort and quality of life by reducing pain and suffering. Hospice care provides an alternative to therapies focused on life-prolonging measures that may be arduous, likely to cause more symptoms, or are not aligned with a person's goals".
"The goal of hospice care is to prioritize comfort, quality of life and individual wishes. How comfort is defined is up to each individual or, if the patient is incapacitated, the patient's family. This can include addressing physical, emotional, spiritual and/or social needs. In hospice care, patient-directed goals are integral and interwoven throughout the care. Hospices typically do not perform treatments that are meant to diagnose or cure an illness but also do not include treatments that hasten death."
Dame Cicely Saunders is truly a pioneer of the Death Education Movement, as she knew the importance of improving the care and treatment towards the end of life.
"Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies, and author of the internationally best-selling book, On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed her theory of the five stages of grief, also known as the "Kübler-Ross model"
"During World War II she worked with refugees, in Zürich, and following the war, did relief work in Poland. She would later visit Maidanek death camp which sparked her interest in the power of compassion and resilience of the human spirit. The horror stories of the survivors left permanent impressions on Elisabeth".
"She was profoundly affected by a visit to the Maidanek extermination camp in Poland and the images of hundreds of butterflies carved into some of the walls there. To Kübler-Ross, the butterflies—these final works of art by those facing death—stayed with her for years and influenced her thinking about the end of life".
The Kubler-Ross Model is still used today in grief and personal loss. Elisabeth is a true pioneer in the Death Education Movement.
Herman Feifel, The Meaning of Death
"Herman Feifel is the pioneering figure and the father of the modern death movement. His efforts broke the entrenched taboo that had previously discouraged scientific study of death and dying and have earned him international acclaim. His work has influenced how we think about death, treat the dying and bereaved, and how we view our own lives".
"Feifel's dissatisfaction with psychology's neglect of the existential richness of life, including the everyday matters of death and dying, coalesced in the 1950s. A major consequence was his focus on what has since become known as the field of thanatology. In 1959 he edited the book The Meaning of Death, which authorities agree was the single most important work that galvanized the scholarly community concerning dying, death, and bereavement".
The death movement is nothing new, however we are having a resurgence of this movement because society is become more interested and want to be more involved in life, and death, matters.
Learn more and become a part of the movement!