What shall we do about the elderly dying with dementia, losing who they are — how do we help them “die well”?
My mom is at the end stage. She is losing her abilities to speak, to eat. How do I help her? Is it okay to talk about dying with her? I do read to her, I tell her I love her, I see her as often as I can at her long-term care home. But as she declines, I am not sure how to help her “die well.”
I have had a great sense of healing in my time with her in this stage of life, but as I see her becoming less and less connected I am not sure what to do. How can I help her at this stage? Perhaps just being there, holding her hand, reading, I am not sure. How do we address her dying? Is it okay to talk about it? I don’t want her to die without being at peace about it.
by Judith Leipzig, guest contributor
Photo by John Starnes/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
On my first day as a chaplain at Calvary Hospital, a palliative care facility in the Bronx — a place where every patient was near death — I was overwhelmed. In the other hospitals I had worked in, I had sat by the bedsides of patients who were frightened, lost, conflicted, and alone — whose lives were rife with hardship, and who often had few resources to help them make their way. But there had been — almost always — a future to reference: the possibility that addictions could be overcome, that illness might recede or be cured, that physical pain might be relieved, and certainly that a time would come — in a few days or weeks — when the patient would go home and resume his life. Almost always, hope was an assumption for me and for the patient. No matter how much suffering, hope was implicit in the fact of being alive.
by Susan Leem, associate producer
Krista brought Jane Gross to our attention at our weekly Monday staff meeting as someone who knows aging intimately from the “far shore of caregiving.”
This Pulitzer-nominated journalist developed her expertise on caregiving and aging not just vocationally, but through living this experience with her elderly mother in her final years.
She started The New Old Age blog for The New York Times and shared her most joyful moments and unexpected insights from role reversals of “becoming my mother’s mother” to learning how to collaborate with her adult sibling. She also has a book called A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents and Ourselves.
Putting words around end-of-life issues is such a difficult task that, even in our tweets, it became difficult to substitute the words “death,” “dying,” or “aging” literally when she used demonstratives like “this” and “that” to represent those ideas in conversation.
We live-tweeted highlights of this 90-minute conversation, which we’re aggregating and reposting for those who weren’t able to follow along. Follow us next time at @BeingTweets:
Photo by Michael Lionstar.Comments