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Dying to Know: How Death Informs the Lived Experience
Death is a question of ultimate concern for every human being. How we choose to engage the question is dependent on our attitudes and beliefs regarding death and dying. Our attitudes about death inform our behaviors, and our behaviors influence our experiences. By reviewing historical attitudes and approaches to death, we recognize the importance of overcoming our fears related to death in order to live fully present to the moment.
How Will Your Story End?—New Program for 2018!
Although we live in a death averse society, you have probably thought about how you want your journey to end. If you are like the majority of people in our country, you want to die at home—surrounded by your family and friends. But the sad reality is this—most people don’t get what they want at the end of life. Due to circumstances and the domino effect of acute, aggressive care—far too many people die in the sterile, unfamiliar, dehumanizing environment of an ICU. So, the question is this—How can we reclaim authorship of our ending?
The Stories of Life
When approaching the end of life, most people desire to reflect on the road traveled. This is referred to as a life review. You may have been honored—or will be honored—to listen to the stories of life as people try to make sense of their lived experience—to understand “the why” of life. Hence, it’s important to know how to connect with your “audience,” how to create a safe space to share, how to elicit stories, and how to listen. And don’t be surprised that by listening to the stories of others you are compelled to reflect on the story of your life. There is much to be discovered by wondering why. There is much to be learned by telling the stories of our lives. Listen and learn.
Plotting and Planning: Advance Directives, Ethical Wills, and Final Arrangements
Western society is depicted as death averse and youth affirming. We spend an inordinate amount of time, attention, and money attempting to retain a youthful appearance that then masks the reality of our mortality. Our reluctance to engage in the advance care planning process is rooted in our fear of death. It takes courage to consider what is beyond this life—to contemplate the unknown, the mysterious. Perhaps, if we reframed the process in terms of how we choose to live, we would be more inclined to articulate our wishes.
One of the great gifts of aging is the opportunity to glance back and assess the tracks we left behind. Possessing a perspective honed by time and hard-earned wisdom, we acknowledge and own the “on track” and “off track” times in life. Our adventures serve to guide, to sustain, and to inspire those who follow in our “tracks.” However, if we fail to share our stories with family and friends, some tracks will go undiscovered. So, don’t miss the opportunity to document your tracks! Tell your story!
There is HOPE in HOsPicE
Contrary to popular belief, hospice is not a four letter word, nor is it something to be feared. Hospice is a philosophy and model of health care designed to serve persons in compassionate, life giving ways. So why does the word cause such angst and trepidation for patients and families? More often than not, our reactions are rooted in a lack of knowledge, fear of death, denial, and avoidance. Take the first step in overcoming your fears by learning how hospice and palliative care can serve you and your family. We will review the historical roots of hospice care, the evolution of contemporary hospice care, and the “state of the union” regarding hospice and palliative services in the United States. Remember, there is HOPE in HOsPicE!
The Basics of Bioethics
Over the past fifty years, advances in medical care have outpaced our ability to comprehend the ethical implications of our health care decisions. Consequently, knowing the basics of bioethics is beneficial to you and your family when confronted with medical dilemmas. Bioethics is the study of controversial ethical issues that arise due to biological and medical advances. Bioethics doesn’t serve as a crystal ball—no magical answers! However, by understanding the basics of bioethical discourse, we can more competently assess the available options and the subsequent ethical implications of our actions. We will specifically address the issues of physician-aided death, palliative sedation, and artificial nutrition and hydration at the end of life.
Today's end-of-life rituals often look quite different from the rituals of previous generations. Not everyone resonates with a traditional funeral or memorial service. So people are choosing to put a personal spin on ritual. It's important to realize that ritual doesn't just happen! Creation of meaningful end-of-life rituals is a collaborative process requiring time, attention, and intention.