In this episode I share my thoughts on how to approach the very difficult task of making an end-of-life decision about the treatment a loved one should receive. Many people are called upon to be decision-makers in these challenging situations and this episode serves as a guide for choosing the best option for someone we love.Download the handout below:
This episode is sponsored by Suzanne O’Brien and her training program for caring for others at the end of life at Doulagivers.com and by your generous donations on my page at Patreon.com/eolu! Join the team and receive special bonuses as a thank-you!
Thank you to all of my patrons and sponsors! Your support means everything to me!
Every day families are called upon to make nearly impossible decisions about the type of care a loved one should receive as they near the end of life. Here are some suggestions for how to navigate this challenging situation when there is no advance directive available for guidance:
Gather medical information from all healthcare providers involved in care
Ask direct questions:
What is the diagnosis and what complications have occurred?
What is the effectiveness of the recommended treatment?
What are the chances for recovery or improvement?
Are there side effects from the treatment or will it cause additional suffering?
What will happen if treatment is stopped?
What would you do if this were your loved one?
Get expert advice and guidance from a palliative care team if available in your hospital
Remember past conversations with your loved one that might give you clues as to his or her preferences for the end of life
Consider the statistics that most Americans prefer to die at home and most do not want aggressive treatment to prolong life in the face of an incurable condition
Ask your loved one for guidance by expressing your concern and your desire to make the best decision. Even though your loved one cannot verbalize, they can hear you – listen for any intuitive or “felt” guidance that might come to you about the best choice to make.
Be gentle with yourself and recognize that you have done your best in a challenging situation
Seek support from others outside your family
Tune in next week for another episode! Share this content with others who might it helpful and consider leaving a review on iTunes.
This episode is sponsored by my book What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying. This book focuses on the spiritual lessons I learned from my dying patients and how they changed my life!
This episode is sponsored by Authentic Presence training for healthcare providers from the Spiritual Care Program. You can receive a certificate in contemplative end-of-life care by completing this series of three courses, including an 8-day residential immersion retreat. Highly recommended!
Today Julie Saeger Nierenberg and Victoria Brewster join me to talk about their book Journey’s End: Death, Dying, and the End of Life, which is a compilation of quotes, stories and resources that look at death from various perspectives. In our conversation we discuss:
How Julie and Vikki ended up collaborating on this book
How the stories in the book are organized:
Personal Stories of Professionals and Lay People
Professional Support and Caregiving Perspectives
Funeral Home, Post-Death and Alternative Burial
Grief and Bereavement
How they chose the contributors for the book
The feedback they’ve received from readers
How this book of stories can be useful in many settings for both professionals and lay people
How to submit a story for the next book in the series which will feature various cultural, ethnic and religious perspectives on death and dying
Learn some tips for starting important conversations about death with people you are meeting for the first time!
In this episode I’ll share with you some stories about my recent yoga retreat and the many amazing conversations I was able to have with strangers about death and dying. I’ve got a few tips for you about starting up your own conversations about death with random strangers. (Here’s a photo from a sunrise hike I took during the retreat!)
Stay tuned to the end of the podcast as I’ll play her song Evocation as the Outro today!
A HUGE THANK YOU to my latest supporter on Patreon.com/eolu: Karen Van Hoof! I appreciate your support very much. Thanks also to all of the other patrons – sign up and join the team for as little as $1 per month at Patreon.com/eolu!
Today I’ll tell you about my recent 5-day retreat at a yoga center where I went to relax, do yoga and finish revising one of my books. While I was there I had the pleasure of talking with many other visitors to the retreat center about death and dying, which was fascinating. Normally I don’t find many people out in the general public who want to talk about death. And while the people I conversed with weren’t necessarily interested in death before our discussion they each seemed to come away with a new understanding or sense of peace.
In order to confront our society’s fear of death we need many more conversations like this to happen every day with people who are not already tuned in to death awareness.
Each of us needs to step up and reach out to others to start a dialogue about death that might prove very helpful to our conversation partner and very informative for us.
Here are my tips for talking with strangers about death and dying:
Choose the right time and place: my conversations generally took place at the table while I was sharing a meal with various strangers. Breaking bread together creates an automatic sense of connection and safety since we usually associate mealtimes with positive feelings. There is also often some free time between courses where conversation can happen naturally. It may also work well to talk about death during other shared activities like hiking, gardening or cooking. Watch for the right opportunity to arise.
Find common ground first: make sure you have established a basic connection by talking about the meal (or the garden, or the hike, etc.) Since my conversation partners were also there for yoga classes we had an automatic common subject to begin chatting about while we established a connection.
Perfect your “elevator speech” which is a very brief story you tell whenever someone asks “What do you do?” The idea is that your answer is so brief you can complete it during a short elevator ride from one floor to the next. So think of one or two sentences you can use to answer that question and give another person an idea of your work. My answer at the yoga retreat was: “I’m a retired hospice physician who now writes books.” Tell them enough to garner their interest and curiosity and lead naturally to more questions. I purposely avoided mentioning death and dying in my initial introduction so that I wouldn’t frighten anyone away before we even got started. But most individuals I encountered were intrigued and asked more either about the hospice work or about the books I’m writing. Both of those questions led directly to a talk about death and dying. On several occasions the other person immediately brought up a story of a loved one or friend on hospice. Many times it was a story that desperately needed to be told and also came with questions about death, dying and hospice. I was amazed by the quality of conversation that occurred in these instances and the need for accurate information. I’m convinced that many people out there really do need to talk about death and dying but rarely encounter anyone they can speak to, which is where you come in!
Hone your listening skills: for these conversations focus on listening rather than telling your own story. Watch for cues from the other person that there is a need to say something and encourage them to talk by asking a question or two and stopping to listen attentively. We are all passionate about our work and other endeavors and there will be opportunities to share that at some point in the future. Initially it’s more important to just listen and hold space so that the other person can ask questions and get the support they need. Rely on your intuition to tell you when that person is ready for a little nudge or encouragement to go deeper into their feelings.
Share just enough information: again it is important to be a good listener so when you do describe your work don’t go overboard. Use simple and accurate terms to convey what you do but pause and allow the other person to ask for the information they need.
As you’ll hear when you listen to this episode I was able to have meaningful conversations with different people every day while I was at the retreat. These are some of the most important discussions we can be having right now so take a chance and strike up a conversation with a stranger about death and dying!
There will be a new episode every Monday so be sure to tune in again! And if you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes.
Learn how to leave a written legacy for your loved ones and enjoy a retreat in Mexico in the process!
In this episode I share a conversation with Michelle Pante and Reena Lazar of Willow, a company that helps people express their personal and healthcare wishes for the future and leave a legacy of the heart for the ones they love. They will share their stories and tell us about an innovative retreat to Mexico they are planning this year – just in time for Dia de los Muertos!
You can still join our online reading group A Year of Reading Dangerously if you’re interested in reading a book each month about death, dying and the afterlife. Register here if you want to receive email notifications each month about the latest book selection. Go here to see the entire book list for 2018.
Thanks as always to my supporters on Patreon.com/eolu! Your monthly donations help keep this podcast and the EOLU interview series on the air. This week my thanks goes out to Suzanne O’Brien and Doulagivers.com for their ongoing support over the past year-and-a-half. If you’d like to join our team sign up at Patreon.com/eolu and receive special bonuses.
Today my guests Michelle Pante and Reena Lazar tell us how they started their company Willow and the services they provide to their clients. We talk about:
How the two of them decided to team up and create a vision together
How Reena uses her conflict resolution training in the work she does now helping people with end-of-life planning
Why they chose the name Willow for their company
What are “love letters” and “heart wills” and why they encourage people to create them
Tips for writing your own heart will
Details of the upcoming retreat in Mexico that includes a celebration of the Day of the Dead (you can still get the “early bird” discount of $200 off the price of the retreat if you sign up by August 20th and use the code EOLU)