Category Archives: dying

Part Two: “Let’s Talk Turkey” Here’s a real life example

Giving Thanks for My Father’s Death
By Rev. Rosemary Lloyd, 11/22/2016

[Permission to publish]

This Thursday, there will be an empty chair at the table for our family Thanksgiving gathering. My brothers and I made plans months ago to come from the many corners of our busy lives to be together for what we suspected would be my father’s final Thanksgiving on earth. But he won’t be with us. He died October 16, 2016.

It’s okay.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m sad; I will miss him forever.
And I am grateful for his death.

My father was 95 in August. For more than two years, we witnessed the mental diminishment that came with the unforgiving progression of late-onset dementia. Ultimately, the man who was a navigator during World War II—who could fly through night skies with stars as his guides—would say, “I’m lost. Where am I? Where are we going?” Untethered from the circadian rhythms of the household, he would wander restlessly at night and doze on and off through the day.

It became more and more difficult to understand what made him comfortable or uncomfortable. What he would want to eat instead of push away. Whether he would agree to take a walk or get dressed or simply refuse.
So, when he died quietly, sitting in his favorite chair, waiting to be called for dinner, I was, of course, sad. And grateful.

Grateful that his death was what so many of us dream for ourselves: It was peaceful, seemingly without pain, at home, near his beloved wife, the smells of his favorite dinner wafting from the kitchen. We are grateful for the mercy that he still knew his bride of 63 years, and recognized his children and grandchildren. The twinkle is his eyes still ignited when he saw a baby or a pretty woman. And he was still saying, “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.”

I am so grateful that we had some crucial conversations along the way. Dad convened his adult children after Thanksgiving dinner some years ago to explain his finances to us all. He designated who was to have Power of Attorney for financial matters, who would be executors of his estate, and who his back-up health care agent was, after our mom.

Early last year, having outlived the battery in the pacemaker/defibrillator that slept under his skin, he opted to have just the pacemaker replaced, saying he didn’t want his heart “shocked” if it was ready to stop. We gently pushed the conversation to the next level: What if your heart stops beating in the hospital or at home? Do you want us to attempt CPR to try to restart your heart? “No,” he answered softly. “I don’t want that.”

He asked his doctor for a DNR order and it was placed on the refrigerator at home. I am so grateful for his courage, and for my mother’s and brothers’ tender compassion that allowed us to talk openly. And for the doctor’s humanity in receiving Dad’s request. Those conversations were a gift that gave everyone peace of mind on October 16th.

Though he “graduated” from hospice in August, I am grateful for the dedicated and compassionate people who supported my parents for six months. If you ask her, my mother will tell you how “Wonderful!” were the world-expanding visits from the chaplain, and social worker, and nurse—for both of them.

I am grateful for the many years that my father was our guiding star, and for the gift of words that expressed his love for us and his faith in a God who would be his eternal rest. I am grateful for the many family, friends, and strangers-to-me who expressed their condolences, sent food, came to the house and the funeral parlor, to the church and the graveside. I am grateful for the co-workers who allowed me the time to be with my family and who understand that grief isn’t over just because the funeral is.

As I look around the table this Thanksgiving, I will, no doubt, see eyes that twinkle like my dad’s, and eyes that sparkle with brimming tears. And I will feel so much gratitude for the gift of my father’s life and his death. May his memory be a blessing for generations.

Fast track to End of Life Planning—Introducing a New Series by Jon and Michelle Braddock

Everyone has a story. What’s yours? What’re you passionate about?

Some ideas are hatched out of inspiration, or out of desperation. www.yourexitstrategy.org (YES) was born out 40+ years of guilt. My guilt.

In 1967 I questioned my father’s doctor about his prognosis: He said: “Your dad’s got five years, with prostate cancer, if he follows directions.”

I was only 25 and totally self-absorbed. After traveling, studying and working overseas, my energies were focused on being a speech therapist in three Washington DC schools, and planning our wedding. Commute five hundred miles back to their home in Ohio? Not possible. It never occurred to me to delve deeper than his diagnosis. Our phone conversations were pathetic: “How’re you feeling today?”

You’ll learn with me as guest bloggers Jon and Michelle Braddock share how her dad’s death changed their professional careers. 

Being PREPARED Is a Gift!     Jon Braddock

I’m prepared for the inevitable: my own death. Being organized means not leaving a huge mess for my family to sort out. Do you know what happens if someone dies, hasn’t specified their wishes, or left concise directions for their loved ones? It creates undue STRESS, absorbs a tremendous amount of TIME and can cost huge sums of MONEY! Not coincidentally, these are the same three things that divide families.

Shocked by the unexpected death of my father-in-law, (they’d been married 63 years) it took us almost a year to locate and access online accounts [without passwords], trace safe deposit box keys, bank accounts, and life insurance policies. The list seemed never ending. He’d probably never considered how difficult it would be to untangle and settle their affairs.

Please watch our two-minute story on Vimeo to learn why we’ve become so passionate about helping other families avoid similar pain: https://vimeo.com/152296272   It’s pushed us into a career we could never have imagined: www.MyLifeandWishes.com

We’re relieved that our adult children won’t face the nightmare we did, because they know our desires and where everything is located. What do you want the experience to be like for your family? Are you prepared?  It’s easier than you think—download our guide: 10 Things You Need To Know http://try.mylifeandwishes.com/end-of-life-planning-ebook/

Our website is an online planning tool and storage site, which simplifies end-of-life planning considerations: healthcare directives; funeral direction; last wish instructions; wills; insurance papers; banking information; and other critical information you’ll need. Please use our previous blog posts https://www.mylifeandwishes.com/blog/ as an educational hub for your unanswered questions.

Do you agree that “building your final roadmap” could be the greatest gift you could leave your family?

Emma's Battle of the Q's

The “Battle of the Q’s” PART ONE

Emma's Battle of the Q's

 Recognize three new acronyms: NED; MBC; + AND?

It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback, and intellectualize QUALITY of life vs QUANTITY of life until an accident or a terminal disease catapults you to the business end of a buzz saw. Don’t become complacent like I did.

I had STAGE IIIA breast cancer in 2004, after multiple surgeries, chemo and radiation. I was anxious before every six-month checkup, and after five years, the annual visits. What a relief to be told: “No Evidence of Disease (NED).” I took NED for granted. Excruciating headaches in late 2015 led to a diagnostic cervical CT scan, which identified hairline fractures in my cervical spine. A second CT scan, plus a deep needle biopsy of my Iliac crest, verified that I’d leapt over STAGE IIIB—and landed in STAGE IV cancer, which is where the bus stops. Totally blindsided, NED was replaced with a new acronym: Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC).

Treatment plan: Ten doses of cervical radiation in December; six months of wearing hard and soft neck collars 24/7; daily Femara pills, and a monthly injection of Exgeva to strengthen my bones. June CT scan–no new tumors. While intermittent bone pain in my legs and ongoing fatigue punctuate my daily activities, now’s the time to reinforce my End of Life (EOL) discussions, i.e., My Exit Strategy that I’d designed with my website in 2013. Research on bone metastasis shows a five to ten year life expectancy, so it’s a perfect time to rev up this conversation, again.

If you were buying a car, you’d check out the dealership’s reputation, right? Why not do the same, and investigate your future EOL needs like geographically desirable hospice facilities, caskets, cemetery plots, funeral homes or cremation services, now, before you need it?

I remind my adult children that just as the citizens of Chicago were told to vote early and often, when my health goes downhill, they should use the same approach with the Hospice I have chosen. Start early and ask often: “Is my Mom ready to go into hospice yet?” Every patient will decline, and the doctors will be asked: Would you be surprised if she died in the next six months? I don’t want to be cheated out of one day! Give me hospice!

Here’s the third acronym: Allow Natural Death (AND). My directions are simple and clear. Be prepared for the time when my cancer becomes aggressive, or stops responding to treatment. If a medical crisis develops, my condition could deteriorate very quickly. Don’t panic. Keep my POLST* and Advance Directives visible. Focus on comfort care—only give me the best QUALITY of life possible. No heroics, last-ditch surgeries or attempts to prolong my life—which in reality just prolongs a patient’s suffering. DO NOT send me to the ER or the ICU. Keep me at home. Re-read my Directives. Review our state guidelines for paramedics. If I can’t breathe, don’t call 911. Never allow anyone to crack my ribs, or surgically open my airways. Stay calm. My goals have changed—I’m looking forward to my eternal life. As soon as I am Absent from the body, I’ll be present with the Lord. I’ll get there sooner if you remember AND –Allow Natural Death.

POLST*    Physician Ordered Life Sustaining Treatment. States use different terms. Find yours on this map www.polst.org

The linchpin to End of Life (EOL) planning is to stay in control. Make your personal Exit Strategy air tight. Clarify your wishes now, and keep talking about it until your family understands the blueprint you’ve outlined for them. Research demonstrates that when the family is at peace with your advance decisions, they can concentrate on mourning and remembering your legacy—which keeps you alive in their hearts and minds.

Coming soon:  PART TWO   Building your own Quality VS Quantity charts.

 

 

 

Give Grief Space to Breathe

Guest Blogger: Kim Adams, Certified End of Life and Grief Coach

Grief is the natural, common response to a loss. And loss is a human experience. Therefore, we each experience loss in one form or another. We tend to most often think of grief after the death of a loved one. However, grief occurs along the journey — along the journey of life (divorce, loss of friendships, job loss, etc.) and along the caregiver journey.  We can experience the anticipation of loss — grief that our loved one is no longer the person they once were with diminished physical abilities and/or diminished mental capabilities especially with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. And in addition, the loss of our own identity, including the the loss we feel as our role of caregiver will ultimately change. Continue reading

Death & Dying, Loss & Grief Brought to You by THE DEATH CHICKS

The Death Chicks? Are you kidding me? How outrageous and fun, melding the disparate concepts, “Death” and “Chicks” into a weekly show on Google Hangouts On Air (HOA).

Thanks to the internet, two professionals working in the death industry, Patty Burgess/Philadelphia connected with Myste Lyn/ Canada. Getting acquainted through Skype, they discovered they were “on the same wave length,” and shared a similar sense of humor. Their conversations were always punctuated with laughter, a key element to releasing endorphins in the brains. As they explored the spectrum of end of life issues to discuss in a weekly show, they knew laughter was a key component, because it puts people at ease, and lessens their fears. Patty said: “Our individual hospice training and personal coaching perspectives created our basic philosophy: you can’t enjoy life to the fullest unless you stop being afraid of dying.” Continue reading

Learn How To…Talk To Your Doctor…and never hear the ugly words ‘Death Panels’ again!

Just in case you forgot how “Death Panels” became The LIE of the YEAR in 2009, click on this link, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2014/dec/15/look-back-politifacts-lie-year/   — skip down to the “PolitiFacts LIE of the year for 2009.

How many people died in the past six years, without the benefit of an “end of life” conversation with their physician(s)? Is this on Sarah Palin’s conscience? Continue reading

Thinking of Suicide? Know someone that has? Please read this: Open Letter to Sam…

Completing our “Snowbird” season, en route to our final Florida RV campground, we stopped at a USPS office to mail a package.  Another customer in line asked about my Stephen Ministry nametag. I explained that twenty years ago, I’d taken 50 hours of training to be a Christian caregiver. Now I’ve developed a website, www.yourexitstrategy.org to encourage families to start talking about their End of Life plans. I was blown away when he said, “I’ve already found the cheapest way to get rid of my body when I’m gone—I’m donating it to medical science.” Continue reading

How The Mesothelioma Center Can Help Someone With A Terminal Diagnosis of Mesothelioma  

The value of a good support team can’t be understated when facing a terminal diagnosis. A network of supportive family, friends and health care professionals is the greatest asset someone can have when coping with a terminal disease like mesothelioma cancer.

Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The five-year survival rate is less than 10 percent, and mesothelioma life expectancy is between 12 to 21 months. However, advancements in treatment are helping people live longer and more comfortably with the disease, and rare cases do go into remission, but the vast majority diagnosed with mesothelioma will succumb to the cancer within three years. Continue reading

FIVE Action Steps to Improve End-of-Life Care in Your Community

Thanks to Karen Wyatt MD for this Guest post. Karen is a creative leader in showing us the many options for bringing End of Life discussion out into the open, which benefits everyone.

If you are concerned at all about your own end-of-life or how your parents and your children will be cared for when they die, you should know that we need to transform the way people die in our country and we need to begin that process now. Continue reading