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Archive for the ‘End of Life’ Category

The Following is a guest post from Jayan :

I knew that cancer didn’t discriminate. I knew it didn’t care if the person was old or young or if the person already had enough problems. I knew all of this, but I didn’t know cancer had my sister’s address. Recently, my baby sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. My entire life, I’ve always tried to identify the hardest thing about living. Because my sister has been diagnosed with cancer, I now know what the hardest thing about living is. The hardest thing about living is watching someone you love die. Still, it would be selfish of me just to sit back and watch her die. If cannot save her, but I will help her by being there.

Being there is the best thing that any of us can do when a friend or family member is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Being there means more than just offering a shoulder to cry on; being there is more about helping those you love walk when they can’t walk themselves. Here is a list of ways in which I assist my sister.

My sister adores her four children so even when she is feeling her worst, she still wants them around. Her friends and I take turns shopping and preparing meals and snacks for her and her family. The only thing my oldest nephew has to do is heat the food, and the family has quick, homemade meals.

When my sister and her husband visit the doctor or when they want time alone, they know that my home is never locked to their children. My nieces and nephews receive more hugs and kisses than they actually want, but part of what I do to help my sister is to let her kids know that they are never alone. Quite often, my sister tells me that my love for her children is one of the things that helps sustain her.

Sometimes, I sit with my sister when she undergoes her chemo. We always said we would sit together in our old age, and we often laugh about this during her treatments. Sometimes we play games from our childhood, and other times, I simply hold her hand. When I’m out shopping, I’m constantly on the look out for books and movies that will make her laugh.

Surprisingly, most of the things that I do for my sister are things I’ve always done. I’ve always bought her gifts and helped her with her children. Even after having four kids, she still doesn’t hesitate to call me when she has strep throat or an illness she has caught from one of my nieces and nephews. I’ve always been there for my sister, and that’s the one thing that we can all do when our loved ones become seriously ill – we can continue to be there for them. Don’t give up, and don’t give in and run away. Be there.

Jayan writes about yoga, nutrition and weight loss. If you liked this article, please visit Indoor Chaise Lounges and Chaise Lounge Sofa.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Jayan_B

Being there for someone who is dying is a wonderful gift, especially keeping things as normal as you can. If you are finding it difficult to be with someone who is at the end of their life, it might help you to read the book Gentle Dying by Felicity Warner – you can find a review on our website.

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The following is a guest post by Judy Brutz :

My husband has glioblastoma multiforme, an incurable form of brain cancer. Ted Kennedy died from it. The early challenges I am experiencing as a caregiver are disbelief, feeling overwhelmed, trying to define my role as caregiver, maneuvering a change in my marital relationship, recognizing the need for financial and legal planning, and caring for myself.

Disbelief. It is difficult for me to stay focused. It is hard to grasp what is going on. There are a few facts that I hold onto. My husbands’ symptoms developed rapidly during a four week interval. From being able to speak normally, he started searching for words, and then progressing to not remembering the names of objects, substituting words and phrases which didn’t make sense, to not being able to spell. He had an emergency MRI, which showed a large mass over his left temporal lobe. A rushed appointment for brain surgery was made in the next state. I was told that he would not be expected to live more than one or two years even with the tumor removed and aggressive treatment undertaken.

Overwhelmed. Initially I felt completely overwhelmed, like I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. Ten days after surgery, I am going in and out of feeling overwhelmed. I realize that I’m not attentive to my surroundings, as though I’m zoned out somewhere. My center of my chest hurts. I know this to be a major sign of stress. Also my breathing is shallow. I must tell myself to breathe.

Caregiver Role. I’m abruptly being thrust into the role of caregiver, and I’m trying to figure out what this means practically. My husband’s expressive language limitations cause major problems in communication and in joint decision making. I need help in defining my role. Hopefully, when we go to the Cancer Center, the social worker will help educate me.

Marital Relationship. I’m having to take over decision making and financial management. My husband needs reminders and direction. We are both distressed. Both of us become frustrated and irritable with each other. He says things to push my buttons, and I react. I’m on a sharp learning curve. I need a support group and will go to a meeting this coming week. I also need personal counseling, and my appointment is made.

Financial and Legal Planning. I need to make sure that our affairs are in order. My husband had this role before his surgery. I’m discovering that our papers are in disorder. He may have allowed his life insurance, naming me as beneficiary, to lapse. I will go to a lawyer even though my husband does not want me to, nor does he want me to spend our money on legal fees. I feel conflicted in going ahead without our discussing and agreeing to a plan, but this is the new reality of our relationship and my role as caregiver.

Self Care. It is critical that I take exceptionally good care of myself. I have my own health issues and must not get run down or stressed. Otherwise, I will rapidly decline and then both of us would need caregivers.

Judy Brutz is author, spiritual director, retreat leader and speaker. She lives in Idaho with her family, and enjoys nature, knitting for peace, and volunteering. http://judybrutz.net

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Judy_Brutz

We wish Judy all the best on the difficult road ahead. Do you share any of these issues? Are there any coping strategies which have helped you?

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Death, dying – these are dirty words in our society. In our pursuit of medical excellence we have extended life far beyond what our bodies would be capable of without that medicine. This is a wonderful gift for those who get to share their lives for longer with those they love. But death is still natural. It is still something we all reach, and many believe only a stepping-stone to a quite different life in spirit.
So why do we find it so hard to face death – our own, or that of someone we are close to? Our society does not make it easy for us, because we have learned to see death as a failure, and an ending. (more…)

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Recently I’ve been thinking about how the stages of grief relate to cancer. And how this is not only the case after someone dies. We can experience grief stages when we first hear about the person’s cancer, for loss of the life we envisioned or for their reduced abilities and health, if it becomes clear the person will die, or after their death. The person who has cancer may also experience grief stages as they face the end of their time here. I thought it would be helpful to share what I wrote about the stages of grief in my book Their Cancer – Your Journey. (There are several versions of the stages of grief, including the Elizabeth Kubler Ross stages of grief – these grief stages are a slightly simpler version)

Grief – Stages Of

“According to research conducted by psychiatrists J. Bowlby and C.M. Parkes, there are four stages of grief that people commonly experience. You may find that one or more of these phases describe where you are in your grief at any time. Your progression from one stage to another may not be smooth, and where you are can vary from day to day. The four stages are:

  1. Numbness. This is where you may be in shock, feeling disbelief and cut off from reality.
  2. Yearning, pining. Here you find you wish to bring back the person, long for them. You may feel much anger and disappointment at this stage.
  3. Depression, disorganisation and despair. Now you find it difficult to function in your everyday life. You may struggle to concentrate or not be able to bear thinking about the future.
  4. Recovery and reorganisation. At this stage more positive feelings begin to surface. You are ready to take the first steps of moving forward with your life, and adjusting to your new reality.

When you first reach the stage of recovery, it is likely to be fragile. You may start by catching fleeting glimpses of how life may be. It is tempting at this stage to slide back into guilt, thinking “How can I be thinking of the future when he or she is not here?” Guard against this temptation. Guilt serves no one, especially not your loved one, who has left already.
Describing these phases of grief makes them seem passive, as though you have no control over your route through them. There is a benefit to taking your time. No one can tell you how long it should take you to move from one stage to another. There are many things that affect your ability to adjust and move on through this unfamiliar landscape.
A more ‘active’ way of looking at grief comes from William Worden, who described a series of four tasks that are involved in mourning.

  1. To accept the reality of the loss. This shows that you can make the choice to face this reality with courage, and resist the temptation to deny it.
  2. To experience the pain of grief. This task is where you dive into the pain. When giving birth, a mother is encouraged to flow with the pain, rather than resisting it. If you give yourself the time and the space to do this with your grief, you will allow the emotions to flow rather than become stuck. Self-medicating with alcohol, or anything else that prevents you truly feeling your emotions, would be avoiding this task.
  3. To adjust to the environment where the deceased is missing. The loss of someone close to you changes the scenery of your every day. In fact the build up to death may have changed
    your life beyond recognition, so that it revolved around caring for the person with cancer. When they die, this is a huge adjustment. Your task now is to create the new landscape of your life, metaphorically moving the furniture to at least partly fill the hole that they have left.
  4. To emotionally relocate the deceased and move on. This task involves making a space for your loved one as a memory rather than a current relationship. Keeping them in your heart in this way allows you to look forward to a future without them and not feel bad about yourself for doing so.

You will find a way through these phases and tasks. The human spirit is resourceful and resilient. In the early stages it may feel as though your world has ended. And so in a sense it has. However, there is a new world for you to step into, when you are ready.”

This is an extract from the book ‘Their Cancer – Your Journey’, which you can get as a cancer ebook or as a paperback through Amazon UK or Amazon.com

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The first Christmas after losing someone dear to you, is always hard. Those around you are celebrating, spending happy times with family – or moaning about how stressful it all is.
How can you deal with this time of year when there is such a gap in your life? It’s not too late to jump off the merry-go-round if you feel it is all becoming too much for you this year. Here are a few points to consider.

  • Don’t pretend that nothing has changed – it would be false to pretend that there isn’t a gap in your family. Even children want the loss to be recognised.
  • Consider abandoning the traditional celebrations. If you have lost someone dear to you this year, you don’t owe it to anyone to fake cheerfulness if you’re not ready for it. You may get invitations from well-meaning people to spend time with them because they hate the idea of you being alone. Only accept if it’s what you want.
  • Express how you feel. You may be terrified of opening up your heart because of your grief. But expressing that grief to someone else, or in writing, is the best way to heal it.
  • Make a special memory of your loved one. This could be something you create yourself, such as writing a poem. It could simply be drinking a toast in their memory. Or you could light a candle each day for a few minutes of recognition and remembrance.
  • Appreciate what you do still have. However much you miss this person, there are others who are still here. Write a list of everybody you appreciate having in your life. Taking the time to count your blessings is a step towards the future.

There is no rule which says you have to behave in a certain way at this time of year in order to make others more comfortable. However, if you can let the holiday spirit in just a little, perhaps that will also help you move forward into the year ahead.

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How do we help people at the end of their lives? Do we support them in a dignified and meaningful death, or provide ever more strenuous healthcare in order to prolong their lives?
In the US Healthcare Debate, CBS 60 Minutes recently weighed in with a segment about the cost of care in the last two months of life, which you can view here. Whilst cost is of course a very real problem in every healthcare system around the world, I believe the other factors covered in the program are more important. They revolve around facing up to the fact that we are all going to die, and actually thinking about what kind of death we would like to have. Is it one in an intensive care unit attached to machines, or a more supportive atmosphere at home or in a hospice – where death is seen as a natural process rather than a failure.
This debate is relevant to all countries and cultures, as death is surely one of the things we all have in common. The issues of unwanted intervention are far from exclusive to the US. Scottish actress Audrey Jenkinson described in her book Past Caring how her mother was resuscitated and taken to hospital in spite of having already expressed her wish to be allowed to die a natural death. Surely this is not what any of us want from our healthcare system. In other cases the person is no longer able to make decisions for themselves, and family members cling to unrealistic hope. This may be because they believe the person could be saved, in order to delay their grief, or simply because nobody has helped them look honestly at the truth of the matter.
Where can we look for a better model? One person who is championing better end-of-life care and support is Felicity Warner, who published her book Gentle Dying in 2008. She also trains ‘soul midwives’, who give the dying a chance to talk freely about their hopes and fears with someone who can support them. The soul midwife may also able to help families come to terms with their relative’s situation and honour that person’s last wishes. This can provide great comfort as the family moves into the grieving period. Families can play their part by ensuring they get the support they need in order to be strong in the face of loss.
With courage and a healthy debate, we can bring the subject of death out of the sidelines and honour it as a positive end which brings meaning to our time here.
For more end of life resources, visit Families Facing Cancer, and please share any additional helpful resources as a reply to this post.

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