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Dying & Death Talk

Looking at dying and death for what it is: a part of life.

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A Dress Rehearsal for the End of Life

Courtesy of TheNewYorkTimes.com | By Monona Yin | Photo by Loris Guzzetta | Orignally Published 10.23.2018 | Posted 11.11.2018

We had started down the path of honoring our mother’s wish to have a good death until a hospice nurse figured out that she wasn’t really dying.

Three years ago, my family and I had the experience of going through a full “dress rehearsal” for my mother’s demise. At 83, she had become alarmingly weak from stage IV lymphoma and atrial fibrillation, and asked me and my brother to come home to Delaware for her next oncologist visit.

Mom had already undergone chemotherapy and cardioversion, so we knew there were few treatment options left. Still, we were utterly unprepared when the doctor said, “She probably has less than six months,” and recommended that she begin hospice care.

Widowed at just 37 with two small children, Mom has trained herself to face challenges without flinching. She is that rare Chinese elder who isn’t superstitious about mentioning or planning for her own death.

True to form, when we got home from the oncologist’s office, Mom sat us both down at the kitchen table to discuss her end-of-life wishes. She had witnessed two horrible lingering deaths up close — her mother’s and a longtime friend’s. What she feared most was pointless suffering and the loss of control over her own life. She wanted us to understand that, if she had little hope of recovery, she’d rather go quickly than fall apart slowly and painfully.

Continue reading “A Dress Rehearsal for the End of Life”

Half a million chat about end-of-life plans on Medicare’s dime, and why that’s a good thing

Courtesy of AJC.com | Posted 08.14.2017 | Published 08.14.2017

The 90-year-old woman in the San Diego-area nursing home was quite clear, Dr. Karl Steinberg said. She didn’t want aggressive measures to prolong her life. If her heart stopped, she didn’t want CPR.

But when Steinberg, a palliative care physician, relayed those wishes to the woman’s daughter, the younger woman would have none of it.

“She said, ‘I don’t agree with that. My mom is confused,’” Steinberg recalled. “I said, ‘Let’s talk about it.’”

Instead of arguing, Steinberg used an increasingly popular tool to resolve the impasse last month. He brought mother and daughter together for an advance-care planning session, an end-of-life consultation that’s now being paid for by Medicare.

Continue reading “Half a million chat about end-of-life plans on Medicare’s dime, and why that’s a good thing”

Many Avoid End-Of-Life Care Planning, Study Finds

Courtesy of KHN via NPR | By Michelle Andrews | 08.02.2017 | Posted 08.07.2017
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People with chronic illnesses were only slightly more likely than healthy individuals to put their wishes down on paper in a living will. Jodi Jacobson/Getty Images

Before being deployed overseas for the Iraq war in 2003, Army reservist Don Morrison filled out military forms that gave instructions about where to send his body and possessions if he were killed.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is mortality right in your face,'” Morrison, now 70, recalls.

After that, his attention was keenly focused on how things might end badly. Morrison asked his lawyer to draw up an advance directive to describe what medical care he wanted if he were unable to make his own decisions.

One document, typically called a living will, spells out Morrison’s preferences for life-sustaining medical treatment, such as ventilators and feeding tubes. The other, called a health care proxy or health care power of attorney, names a friend to make treatment decisions for him if he were to become incapacitated.

Not everyone is so motivated to tackle these issues. Even though advance directives have been promoted by health professionals for nearly 50 years, only about a third of U.S. adults have them, according to a recent study.

Continue reading “Many Avoid End-Of-Life Care Planning, Study Finds”

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