Yes, I write about dying….how we die in America, the choices and problems we face, what can go wrong, and how to make dying personal. I have to tell you this: I learn incredible things every time someone talks about “talking about dying.”
We each express ourselves in different ways and the telling is fascinating to me. It’s like art — each of us looks at the same thing and then draws something completely different from anyone else’s sketch or painting.
It’s the expression that’s so powerful.
Here’s an example. My friend, Dimitry, asked me to tell him about The New Art of Dying and I gave him my best 15-second elevator explanation. Then, what he says next, blows my mind —he not only got what the book was about but his description seemed far better than any I’ve expressed about a book I wrote!
Here’s what Dimitry said:
“Oh, you mean it’s like a wedding planner. You know, weddings are personal, customized, and all about you and what you’re about, your values, your beliefs, and your family. Your book is a dying planner, knowing your options, choosing, talking about it all to make sure your dying IS so very personal.”
Here’s another exchange I want to share. My friend, James, and I were discussing dying care and the gift we can give each other by talking about it.
“It’s like there’s the matriarch of the family who holds the family together. She’s that sweater that wraps around everyone. So, when she’s dying, and there’s been no conversation about how she wants to die, a thread gets snagged and the sweater unravels completely. The family is distraught about what to do without her orchestrating. They’re left guessing and disagreeing about what care she did or did not want. It’s an ending that’s made sadder simply because much-needed conversations didn’t happen.”
What a powerful image!
Thank you, Dimitry and James, for gracefully expressing yourselves.
I hope this blog post helps others find their words for talking about dying.Tags: ACP, ACP Decisions, Advance Care Plan, Dying care, End of Life
ACP Decisions, Advance Care Planning, Dying, End of Life
Yes, advance directives are about when you are seriously ill or at end of life, but you shouldn’t wait until then. You should have an advance directive (or at least appointed a healthcare proxy) long before that just in case. This way, your loved ones know the care you want and you have someone you love speaking for you when you cannot.
TWO: AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE CHANGES AS YOU CHANGE
An advance directive form isn’t something you complete and then leave dormant for years. It is, in a sense, organic and living. It evolves, as you grow older, expressing something different from what was stated in its original form. That’s why an ongoing conversation with family is important. What care you’d want at thirty is different from what you’d want at sixty or eighty.
THREE: AN ADVANCE MEDICAL DIRECTIVE DOES NOT MEAN “DO NOT TREAT”.
It means being treated the way you want.
Yes, this post probably oversimplifies all the paperwork and choices around dying care wishes but my hope is it empowers you to create an advance care plan that’s about you and how you want to live life to its end.
You can lead by example. A brother talking to a sister, an adult child to a parent, parents to their children, a husband to his wife, friends with friends.
Just say yes. Have the conversation and a plan about how you wish to die and then….well then, we begin a person at a time to make the taboo around not talking about dying a preexisting paradigm.Tags: ACP Decisions, Advance Care Plan, Advance Directive, Dying care, End of Life
But these days, you can flip through channels and hear commercials and see public awareness ads on such subjects as depression, mental illness, AIDs, breast cancer, domestic violence, autism, memory loss and Alzheimer’s. This is a good thing. Hearing about these things can help those who are in the need to know and help others become aware and understanding.
Isn’t it time to lift the taboo about not talking about dying? Isn’t it a good idea to have infomercials about how to be prepared, have a talk, and have a plan?
There’s a lot of discussion on this — opening up and talking about end of life — on the web. Wonderful and empowering sites. To name a few: The Conversation Project, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation, Death Over Dinner, National Healthcare Decision Day, Compassion and Choices, and ACP (Advance Care Plan) Decisions. These organizations and related sites center around being prepared for the inevitable and dying the way you would want.
Yes, it’s a fact. We all get dying, somehow, someday. It’s unavoidable. A dying awareness campaign applies to everyone. The commercials wouldn’t prevent or cure ourselves of dying but they’d make us aware of the need to know ourselves, the choices (medical, palliative, legal), and the problems that we may face when dying.
Let’s face it, being discerning about all this frees us to focus on something very important when the time comes – letting go and helping our loved ones let us go too.
I believe it’s time to launch an awareness ad campaign on how we die and how you can be prepared.
What do you think?
I’m not one to suggest something if I wouldn’t do it. So heads up, I’m currently working with others creating YouTube infomercials that will be coming shortly. Probably by February 2014. I’ll keep you posted.
Tags: ACP Decisions, Advance Care Planning, Compassion and Choices, Conversation Project, Death Cafes, Death Over Dinner, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation, NHDD