So many of us live our lives as if life and death as two separate events. But just like life itself, dying has its own trajectory. Sometimes it’s short and filled with recurring crises. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing —- for the most part. What our death will be like depends largely on what we’re dying from, and whether or not Hospice and/or Palliative care is playing a role in the process. The hospice approach to the dying process is one of caring; Not curing.
Dying is not always a matter of “going quietly in her sleep.” On some level we may be fully aware of our decline and the thoughts of all that we will miss in the physical world; Family, friends, and all of the simple joys life has to offer. Whether we’re dying from long term illness or sudden accident, if we’re fortunate enough our last experience and sensation in this world will not be severe pain.
Hospice care will help insure that our final days are not spent in severe pain and needless suffering, but it cannot prevent the inevitable. As morbid as it may seem to even think about dying and the process itself, it’s essential to have these conversations with your family and physician if you want to die well.
While we cannot control every aspect of the dying process we can make plans and take control of what we can control by making sure our wishes are respected and honored as we face the end of our journey in this realm.
In the United States, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 44.6 percent of all deaths now take place under the care of a hospice program. This is up from 41.9 percent in 2010. People are technically “hospice eligible” when their health care provider determines that they are likely to die in six months, whether from a terminal illness or complications that come along with old age.
Most of us would prefer dying at home, but that can be overwhelming for the people who care for a terminal family member, especially if the caregiver is elderly or sick as well. Hospice care allows for family members to spend quality time with their loved one, as opposed to spending that time managing equipment and medication regimens. Still, many people who die at home have spent most of their final days in a hospital where the main goal is to prevent and/or prolong death.
If one of your dying wishes is to spend your last days in comfort with those you love, make sure you PLAN to die well.
In this TED Talk, Palliative care physician BJ Miller (Zen Hospice Project) talks about how to create a dignified, graceful end of life. This talk asks big questions about how we think on death and honor life.