Ep. 122 Top 10 “Game Changers” of 2017 for the Death-Positive Movement

Learn about my Top-10 picks for people, events and trends that have changed the end-of-life movement in 2017.

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2017In this final episode of 2017 I take a look back at the previous year and share my thoughts on some of the events and people that I believe will have a big impact on how our society deals with the end of life.

Happy Holidays!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Patreonbecome2xYou can support this podcast by making a small donation of $1 or $2 at Patreon.com/eolu.

 

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

Here are my picks for the 2017 Game Changers in the Death-Positive Movement:

  • The documentary film “Extremis” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. The film was also picked up by Netflix in 2016. It is a powerful depiction of end-of-life care in the ICU staffed by Dr. Jessica Zitter, which should serve as a wake-up call to people about the need to do end-of-life planning before a healthcare crisis occurs.
  • Dr. Jessica Zitter’s book Extreme Measures was also released this year. In addition she wrote an article for the N.Y. Times (“First Sex Ed Then Death Ed”) calling for death education classes for all high school students. This novel idea has the potential to change our society’s perception of death and dying by introducing the subject to young people. Dr. Zitter is truly a game changer!
  • In March and May of 2017 the organization The Dinner Party (a movement to provide community for millennials dealing with loss) convened meetings with business leaders from some prominent US corporations to discuss loss and the workplace. They emphasized the importance of developing workplace policies and protocols for managing bereaved employees and offering them assistance. These conversations are just the first step in changing how grief is recognized and supported in the workplace rather than being ignored.
  • In April 2017 the 1st International Death Doula Training was held in Maui for the purpose of teaching people from around the globe to serve others as death doulas. This event was a game changer because it validated the death doula movement, increased the number of qualified doulas who can serve their communities, and provided a networking platform for death workers, which helped strengthen and expand the movement. The 2nd International training will take place in 2018!
  • Also in Apri the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit was held to address the epidemic of opioid addiction in this country. Measures have been taken to limit the number of pain pills that can be prescribed and dispensed at one time. This is an important and game-changing step to deal with the overwhelming public crisis of opioid deaths but caution is necessary. We must be vigilant to ensure that all hospice and palliative care patients have access to the medications they need for pain and symptom management.
  • On June 27, 2017 Jon Underwood, founder of Death Cafe, died suddenly and unexpectedly at a young age. Jon has been a game changer from the beginning by creating the Death Cafe platform for conversations about death that has spread around the world. But the tragedy of his death is also a potential game changer because of the powerful legacy Jon leaves behind and because of the potential for tragedy to inspire growth, creativity and healing. The entire death-positive movement is indebted to Jon for his inspiring and gentle leadership and may his death be a catalyst for transformation.
  • In July a new smart phone app named WeCroak was introduced. This app is a game changer because it helps people to think about death in a positive manner  by sending reminders (“You will die one day”) and quotes on their phones 5 times a day. Technology has the potential to revolutionize our approach to death and dying and this simple $.99 app is just one small step toward the change that is needed.
  • The film Coco was released in the US by Disney and Pixar in November. Coco tells the story of a 12-year old boy who is transported to the land of the dead on Dia de los Muertos. There he receives help from his departed great-great grandfather to return to his family in the land of the living. The film depicts joyful skeletons who dance and sing and it portrays a positive image of life after death. While it is a children’s movie Coco has a powerful message for adults and is likely to stimulate much conversation in families about death and departed ancestors. It is exciting to see Hollywood begin to address death in a positive manner and this film is a game changer that will hopefully lead to more such productions in the future.
  • In December the first EndWell Symposium, created by Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider and her foundation, was held in San Francisco. This groundbreaking symposium brought together thought leaders from healthcare, design and technology to share ideas on how to improve end-of-life care. The synergy of this collaborative event will have a ripple effect across the country and should lead to innovation and creativity around death and dying in the months to come. Dr. Ungerleider is a game changer for her forward-thinking generosity and ingenuity!
  • Also in December the Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy in Prescott AZ held a class for students in grades 9-12 on “Death and the Meaning of Life.”  School Director Charles Mentken taught the class, which provided a comprehensive look at death and dying from various cultural and religious perspectives. The elective class also introduced the students to options for hospice and palliative care, death doulas, home funerals, cremation, and traditional funeral and  burial services. This may be the first “pilot project” course of the type Dr. Jessica Zitter called for in her NY Times article and it is definitely a game changer. The students in the course have reported that their attitudes and fears about death have been totally transformed, as well as their approach to life, as a result of what they learned in the class. (I’ll be featuring an interview with Charles Mentken and 3 of his students on the End-of-Life University Interview Series in early 2018. Sign up if you’re not already on the list!)

I hope your holiday celebrations have been filled with joy and light and that you feel ready to embark on a brand new year next week! There will be a new episode on New Year’s Day where I will share my “wish list” for 2018.

Until then remember to ….

Face Your Fear            BE Ready           Love Your Life

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Ep. 100 Celebrating A Milestone with Larry George MD

Looking back and ahead to the future after 100 episodes of the EOLU podcast.

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larrysmIn this episode I’m joined by my own very dear husband, Dr. Larry George who talks with me about reaching the 100th episode of this podcast and offers his insights about the medical profession and end-of-life issues.

 

We discuss:

  • Why I started End-of-Life University
  • What I’ve learned from all the interviews I’ve done
  • My favorite episodes of this podcast
  • Goals for the future of End-of-Life University, particularly helping to educate the medical profession about death and dying
  • Why I think we need “physician-assisted LIVING”

Patreonbecome2xThanks to everyone who supports this podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series with your generous donations to Patreon.com/eolu. I’m grateful for your generosity!

And thank you to all of my listeners for joining me on this journey. Be sure to tune in next week for a brand new episode! Until then remember:

Face Your Fears.                     BE Ready.                     Love Your Life.

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Ep. 99 Death as a Spiritual Practice

Learn how thinking about death every day can be the secret to peace of mind and joie de vivre.

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TaoIn this episode I share why and how I contemplate death as a daily spiritual practice. This practice has really been the “secret” behind my own spiritual growth.

You can read the blog post here and learn about the book and companion journal The Tao of Death here.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Next week I’ll be celebrating the 100th episode of this podcast! I’ll have a special guest on the show so stay tuned!

Upcoming events include:

Friday July 21st: Hospice Happy Hour Hangout for all of my supporters on Patreon.com/eolu

Sunday July 23rd: Virtual Death Cafe – 3 pm Pacific/6 pm Eastern (everyone welcome to join the conversation! Read more here.)

D2KDUSA(dot)com_red+blkTuesday August 8th is Dying to Know Day and I’ll be hosting a Virtual Death Cafe at 5 pm Pacific/8 pm Eastern. (More information at eoluniversity.com)

Iralaughing

An Evening With Ira Byock MD” to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking book Dying Well!

Monday August 21st

6 pm Pacific/9 pm Eastern

Registration information available soon. (Save the Date for now!)

 

FEATURE:

Here are the benefits I’ve received from my daily spiritual practice of death contemplation:

  • Gratitude for every moment of life
  • Restructured priorities
  • Taking responsibility for my life
  • Looking within myself for answers
  • Finding joy in being alive
  • Being prepared for anything!

TaoYou can use the book The Tao of Death as a guide for a daily practice of death contemplation. Simply read one verse each day, spend some time thinking about what it means for you, then write in your companion journal (available for free download here) about the question that accompanies the verse. When you finish the book you will be well on your way to a daily death contemplation practice that you can continue for years.

I hope you find that his practice enriches your life as much as it has mine! Send me a message and let me know how it’s going for you (email karen@karenwyattmd.com or Tweet me @spiritualmd.)

Tune in next week for #100! Until then:

Face Your Fears.                           BE Ready.                               Love Your Life.

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Ep. 79 The Death-Positive Mindset: How to Create and Share It

The term “death-positive” is everywhere these days. But what does it mean and how do we spread this mindset through our society?

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In this episode I’ll share thoughts from a recent blog post about how to make sure your own death mindset  is clear and free of hidden wounds. These simple practices will help you stay on track as you do your work in the world.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

slide01The Step-by-Step Roadmap for End-of-Life Planning Course is now available if you need any help with your own advance care planning paperwork. You can learn more at this link:

http://www.eoluniversity.com/roadmap

 

death-afterlifesummitRegister now for the Death & Afterlife Summit, which will talk place on March 16-18, 2017. You’ll be able to hear presentations from 10 speakers on dying, death and beyond for FREE. Replays will be available if you can’t attend live. Learn more and register at this link: http://www.eoluniversity.com/afterlife

IN THE NEWS:

A Dutch nursing home is offering college students free rent in exchange for spending 30 hours per month with residents of the home. The students teach the elders how to use technology and get valuable experience connecting with the older generation. The expected benefits for the residents are decreased dementia symptoms, decreased loneliness and isolation, and increased life expectancy. A similar study is being conducted in the UK where students read poetry to nursing home residents, which has led to improved memory skills. We need programs like this in the US!

THE DEATH-POSITIVE MINDSET:

Read the original article here.

In order to help our society achieve a death-positive mindset we must tend to our thoughts and personal awareness of death. Even though we may work with the deaths of others on a daily basis, we can still be in denial of our own mortality. Here are some steps to take to ensure that your own death mindset is as free as possible of denial and fear:

  • Address your fears of death. Learn to live with your fear but not be controlled by it.
  • Explore your past experiences of grief. Process your old, unhealed losses and gradually work to release the pain you carry.
  • Challenge your misperceptions about death. Stop seeing death as sorrowful and learn to see that death can be both beautiful and tragic.
  • Change your language. Free yourself of “tragic-speak” and use non-negative language when describing death. Beware of overly positive platitudes as well, such as “It’s for the best” or “He’s in a better place.” Allow others to experience their own emotions about death without judging or amplifying their pain.
  • Think about death every day. Cultivate a daily death-awareness practice to stay mindful of how precious life is and to remember to make the most of every moment.

Do your work with an open mind and heart and help spread a death-positive mindset wherever you go.

supportonpatreon-e1412764908776If you’d like to support this podcast, go to Patreon.com/eolu to donate $1 or $2 per month.

Thank you to current patrons! Your support is greatly appreciated.

 

Tune in every Monday for a new episode and until next week remember:

Face Your Fears.               BE Ready.                 Love Your Life.

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Ep. 72 What’s in a Name? Semantics, Euphemisms and Taboos About Death

Let’s talk about HOW we talk about Death!

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In today’s episode we’ll look at some common euphemisms for death and learn how and why they came into use, how to break down our societal taboos against talking about death, and when it might actually be appropriate to use euphemisms.

Remember that this podcast is an offshoot of the End-of-Life University Interview Series, which includes two interviews per month with experts from all aspects of the end-of-life arena. If you are not already registered sign up here to get email notification each time a new interview is posted.

supportonpatreon-e1412764908776Support for the EOLU Series and this podcast comes from your generous donations at Patreon.com/eolu. When you support this show with just a $1 or $2 per month donation I will mention your name and promote your cause on the podcast as a thank-you!

In a new feature for this podcast I will start by highlighting some recent “death-positive” events in the news:

  1.  First a wonderful story appeared in USA Today about Morrie Boogaart, a 91-year 0ld man living out his last days in an assisted living facility in Michigan. While he his mostly bed bound due to his physical health, Morrie spends his days knitting hats for the homeless. So far he has given away over 8,000 hats! Thank you Morrie for being an inspiring example of how to live fully for all your days and use whatever energy and capacity you have to be of loving service to others. You are my hero!
  2. Next a study reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and on ScienceMag.org demonstrated that cancer patients who were given the hallucinogen psilocybin experienced a significant decrease in depression and anxiety. According to the author, the patients who had a “mystical experience” while using the hallucinogen were the most likely to have a reduction in fear. This compelling finding supports the data from consciousness studies that show that as consciousness develops there is less and less fear of death at each expanded stage of development, which will be significant later in this discussion.

As we turn to look at the use of euphemisms about death I want to explain why I use the term “end of life” in many of my discussions because some people have accused me of “soft-peddling” death when I use that phrase. But here’s what I mean when I refer to the end of life: I see End of Life as the final stage of human development that incorporates the process of dying, death itself, and the time after death.

For me, End of Life describes the phase on our journey through life when our attention finally turns to the fact that we are mortal and death is inevitable. When we begin to prepare for our eventual death we have entered the End-of-Life Stage in our human development. For some this stage doesn’t start until the process of dying is underway, but for others of us it begins earlier, when death may still be many months or even years in the future. So “end of life” is not a euphemism for death – it is a term that incorporates much more than the moment of death or the dying process.

An interesting article from the Journal in English Lexicology describes the functions of euphemisms throughout human history:

  1. To protect from discomfort over a subject that is “taboo”
  2. To mislead or misrepresent (as in some advertising)
  3. To present in a more positive or “aspirational” light (e.g. using “senior living facility” rather than “old folks’ home”)
  4. To reveal the hidden truth of something or remove a stigma
  5. To bind a group together and create a shared identity
  6. To entertain and lighten the burden of something that is difficult to bear (e.g. medical staffs using humorous references to cope with emotionally heavy situations)

To refer to all euphemisms as dishonest or misleading is to miss the fact that they have had a positive purpose throughout history: they allow people to discuss a taboo subject using terms that are less uncomfortable and triggering for them.

Most euphemisms change over time as taboos are confronted and dismantled. But some of the alternative terms for death have survived for centuries:

  • to “lose” a loved one to death has been in use since the 12th century
  • “pass away” or “pass on” have been commonly substituted for the word “die” since the 14th century
  • “deceased,” “departed” and “no longer with us” have been used since the 15th century

Interestingly not only have those euphemisms survived over hundreds of years they still have exactly the same meaning as they did when they first became popular. This is evidence of the fact that the “death-taboo” has not changed or broken down much during all of those centuries.

But we are part of a pioneering group that is trying to dispel the taboo about death so we freely use the words “dead”, “die”, “death,” and “dying.” But the majority of people in our society are still not comfortable with those words.

In fact, the consciousness of most people in our society has not yet evolved to a level that diminishes the fear of death. So they react to direct language about death with fear and rejection.

To break down a societal taboo there are at least two different approaches:

  • The rebellious approach, where unfair practices are exposed and denounced publicly, while advocating for openness and freedom. This approach brings much-needed attention to the taboo issue and pushes toward change. But it risks triggering resistance and strengthening the taboo for those who are afraid of the issue.
  • The quiet approach involves using positive language and energy to engage conversations that are not too confrontational. This approach also normalizes the taboo subject and even celebrates it with special events (such as Dying to Know Day.)

While the rebellious approach is needed to draw public attention and to shine the light on areas where change is desperately needed, the quiet approach is equally important to draw people closer to the issue by helping them to feel safe and to verbalize their fears.

This “quiet approach” may require us to use euphemisms judiciously so that we don’t repel or frighten away those who want to talk about death but do not yet feel comfortable with the language. Insisting that everyone use our appropriate and preferred terms for death may actually discourage and alienate them from conversation.

So if someone needs to say “My father passed away last year” or “I lost my father last year”, don’t correct them at that moment. Allow the conversation to unfold on that person’s terms because for now it is better to talk about “passing away” than to shut down the discussion altogether. Remember: that person does not yet have the same consciousness, awareness and comfort level with death that you have attained. Have compassion and meet people where they are so that you can gradually encourage and guide them to grow.

Until next week when a brand-new episode will air, remember to:

Face Your Fears.               BE Ready.            Love Your Life.

Ep. 70 Looking Back on 2016: A Positive Year for End-of-Life Issues

In this final episode of 2016 Dr. Wyatt thanks all of the patrons who have generously made contributions on Patreon.com/eolu this year! Thank you for offering your support for this podcast and the End-of-Life University interview series!

In this look back at 2016 we talk about the following positive events in the end-of-life arena:

  • In January JAMA dedicated a special issue to “Death, Dying and the End-of-Life”, which represents a positive breakthrough in awareness of EOL issues by the medical profession
  • Medical schools began adopting new training programs for students in pain management, palliative care, and communication skills around advance care planning. There is a college-level program that pairs pre-med students with hospice patients
  • Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are bringing in children and college students to interact with patients
  • Dementia rates in the US  have dropped in the past year
  • Pilot studies are underway involving providing education and training to family caregivers and providing a small stipend to caregivers
  • A demonstration project is underway to study the benefits of providing curative care simultaneously with hospice care
  • Studies showed that palliative care lowers healthcare costs along with providing increased quality of life, improved pain management and fewer hospital days
  • Harvard study of adult development showed that relationships are a key to longevity
  • California and Colorado both passed assisted dying laws in 2016
  • The nation’s first conference on VSED was held this year
  • Conversation Sabbath took place for the first time in November, bringing discussions about death and dying into places of worship
  • Dying to Know Day was held in the US, inspired by the movement in Australia
  • Miss Norma, a 90-year old woman who refused treatment for her cancer, spent most of the year traveling around the country in an RV with her son and daughter-in-law, fully enjoying the last days of her life

Thank you for tuning in to the EOLU Podcast during 2016! I hope this has been a positive and productive year for you. May 2017 be filled with growth, surprises, peace and joy! See you next year and until then …

Face Your Fears.              BE Ready.              Love Your Life.

Ep. 65 Changing the Perspective on Death: Highlights from Death Expo 2016

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In this episode Dr. Karen Wyatt shares her favorite “take-aways” from the 12 presentations of the recent Death Expo event. If you missed Death Expo you can still purchase the recordings from the event for just $36 (which is a great price for 12 hours of education.)  Go to this link to learn more. The speakers she highlights are:

Enjoy these highlights! If you feel inspired, consider purchasing the Collection!

Also visit the Patreon.com/eolu page if you’d like to become a supporter! As always:

Face Your Fears.                   BE Ready.                     Love Your Life.