Continuing to Bless Those Left Behind

Posted on May 03, 2022

For many preparing for their own death, they may not fear dying as much as they fear leaving loved ones behind. While part of this feeling is the odd sensation of “missing” them, they may also mourn that they won’t be able to experience their milestones or provide support when it would be helpful. However, with a plan, it is possible to help a dying loved one remain more present even after they are gone. 

The following are three ideas that allow the dying to provide an aiding presence, even when no longer physically present. 

Idea #1: The Advice Column

Brothers, sisters, parents, and grandparents are all sources of immense wisdom throughout life’s highs and lows. A bit of brotherly, motherly, or grandmotherly advice during a specific time of life can be immensely meaningful, if not even helpful when received at the right moment. For this, it can be very meaningful and even logistically helpful to have a dying person provide input for an occasion in the future. Perhaps it is a bit of relationship advice, parenting advice, or even something as seemingly mundane as financial advice for a grown child. 

How to execute: 

Create a list of possible common hardships or confusing events that may arise in a person’s life. These can range from relationship problems, parenting issues, or any other hardships in which the dying person has some life experience and advice to impart. If they have the strength, they can write down their advice (preferably in their own handwriting, as this can impart a bit more meaning) but also recorded audio or video—both of which can be transcribed by a trusted third party. 

Idea #2: The Life Cycle Celebration

Any passing means that a loved one won’t be physically present to celebrate and offer their congratulations or blessings. Many dying people may prematurely mourn the fact that they won’t live to see a child or grandchild grow up, have a coming-of-age ceremony (bar/bat mitzvah, confirmation, etc.), graduate from a learning institution, get married, have children, or witness their own lifecycles. For this reason, it can be meaningful to create the celebratory offerings that this person would offer as though they had survived to experience such themselves to be offered at the proper time. 

How to execute:

Depending on the state of the dying loved one, it can be meaningful to capture their congratulations or blessing in physical form. This may mean purchasing an array of birthday cards with birthday wishes pertaining to various ages. Perhaps it could be recording video or audio messages in response to various lifecycle events that are to come—weddings, anniversaries, coming-of-age ceremonies, and the like.

Idea #3: The Family Historian

Our loved ones are saturated with stories of our history. They loved to dote on us and recall amusing memories. Even if some of the stories are embellished with time, this makes no difference to most—in fact, that bit of editorial seasoning can make the stories even yummier. But when someone passes, if not recalled properly by those they leave behind, many of their stories go with them. This is why it can be so incredibly meaningful to allow them to account such stories while they’re still able to express them. 

How to execute: 

How a story is told will largely be dependent on the storyteller and those present to capture it. It can be written down in their handwriting for an enjoyable read. They can be captured on video or audio recording. It is recommended to let the storyteller tell the stories they wish to tell the most unprompted, but also to create a form of an interview in order to curate stories they may forget that they possess. For example, one may ask, “Tell me about the first time you saw mom,” “What was the day I was born like?”, “What was your childhood like?” — or other such questions designed to conjure up wonderful and interesting tales. 

An interesting aspect of capturing advice, congratulations, blessings, or stories is that it helps both parties involved—those who are on their way beyond this world and those they leave behind. The advice can bring children and grandchildren immense comfort and cherished advice. On the other side of the coin, the process of capturing these blessings or memories can help the dying feel productive and cherished as well as help them take their minds off any anxieties they may be experiencing. 

The result will likely be a collection of blessings and stories that will remain a priceless collection of media for your friends and family for generations. 

Professional Hospice Care in Tulsa, Oklahoma

If you or a loved one will need or is in need of professional hospice care, look no further than Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Outlining Goals & Fears While You Still Can

Posted on May 03, 2022

To-do lists helpful tools for anyone. 

  • Weed your garden. 
  • Buy more cat food. 
  • Sort the mail. 

Fears are important to process. 

  • Why you’re stressed about your job. 
  • Why you feel disconnected from your children or parents.
  • What happens after we die. 

While most people can sort out their goals and fears using a to-do list or a journal, it is important for someone nearing the end of their life to outline their goals and fears while they still can. 

But why? 

The Importance of Outlining Goals

For a person who is nearing the end of life, one of the most common hardships to face, especially if they’re younger, is the feeling that they have not accomplished all of their goals. Though summiting Mount Everest or running a marathon may be out of the realm of feasible possibility for someone with a terminal prognosis, there may be smaller goals that may be possible. These can range from reconnecting with an old friend to wanting to die at home instead of in a hospital. 

Knowing the goals of a dying loved one or having your goals known can provide immense emotional relief and direction when communication becomes more difficult. 

The Importance of Outlining Fears

If goals are what you would like to do or happen, fears are what you wish to avoid. Outlining your fears or getting a dying loved one to outline their fears, though challenging, can be immensely rewarding for all involved. Not only can expressing these fears keep them from becoming bottled up, but it also allows them to be examined clearly. At times, simply expressing a fear is half of the battle of conquering it. Entering the end of life with as few fears as possible can ease the emotional burden not only on the dying individual but for all of those involved. 

How to Outline Goals & Fears

Outlining goals and fears does not have to be complicated. If the person can still write, they may find that writing them down by hand can be immensely cathartic. If they can no longer write, you can choose to simply sit with them and ask them about their goals and fears in a conversational manner, writing them down as you go. You may also choose to record the conversation with audio or video, but make sure to do so with their permission to preserve their trust. Make sure to explain that them outlining their goals and fears is simply a way of getting to know them even better so that you can provide the best care possible. 

Professional Hospice Care in Tulsa, Oklahoma

In the pursuit of extending your options, we’re here to help. If you or a loved one will need or is in need of professional hospice care, look no further than Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Being Mortal: Medical Culture Behind End-of-Life Decisions

Posted on May 03, 2022

In the documentary “Being Mortal,” filmmakers followed the case of several individuals with terminal diagnoses. 

One such case was that of Sara Monopoli.

Sara was pregnant with her first child when she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She gave birth with collapsed lung because a C-section was too risky. 

Her cancer later spread to her thyroid and elsewhere in her body. Her cancer diagnosis was advanced and terminal. Despite this, she received aggressive treatments in hopes of extending her life. In hindsight, her husband and doctors believe that such treatments, though well-intended, may have actually shortened her life. They undoubtedly deteriorated her quality of life—a concept her husband continues to reflect upon.

“I’ve thought often about—what did that cost us? What did we miss out on? What did we forgo by consistently pursuing treatment after treatment after treatment that made her sicker and sicker and sicker?” 

On the flip side of the coin, another patient in the film, Jeff Shields, an elderly farmer, was diagnosed with advanced lymphoma. As chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant began to fail, Jeff weighed his options. 

Jeff decided that he didn’t want to die in a hospital. Instead, he wanted to die on his farm. Receiving hospice care in his own bed in a room on his farm, Jeff is captured in the documentary spending time with his friends, children, and grandchildren. 

When interviewed, Jeff seems almost jubilant. 

“The last couple of weeks I’ve been surrounded by family and friends. It’s been terrific. Some of the best days of life, I must say. But then there's a downward trend that's more rapid than I expected. I felt great during that time and my body was in rapid decline. Since then my mind has been in rapid decline. I get confused. But I'm still a happy guy."

Many are faced with the difficult decision to potentially forgo what Jeff called, “a good death” in return for extended life or to forgo a slim chance at living a longer life thanks to potentially harsh treatments.

Though the decision will likely always be one of the most difficult anyone is forced to make, the documentary explores how the culture in medicine has begun to shift away from that of simply attempting to extend life, regardless of its quality, to first and foremost extending the quality of life—however that happens to appear for each patient and their loved ones. 

Professional Hospice Care in Tulsa, Oklahoma

In the pursuit of extending your options, we’re here to help. If you or a loved one will need or is in need of professional hospice care, look no further than Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Navigating the Anxiety of the “Hall Conversation”

Posted on May 03, 2022

Whether you’re the decision-maker for someone receiving care, the main caretaker, or both, you never quite get used to those moments when a medical professional wants to speak to you about a loved one’s care—or the “hall conversations” as they’re frequently portrayed. Even if your loved one receiving care is also in the room, you may feel all alone and that the weight of the world is on your shoulders. 

In these moments, it is important to take a deep breath and remember a few different truths: 

  1. You’re not alone.

As the decision-maker, this comes with a kind of emotional heft that makes it feel as though you’re not only in charge of making choices but also seeing them through. If you’re feeling alone and under immense stress, take a moment to breathe and remember the many people you have on your side. 

There’s a good chance that you have other family and friends willing to help you shoulder the emotional and logistical load of being a deciding caretaker. If friends and family are sparse, you have a team of medical and caretaking professionals who are there to not only treat your loved one but also to make sure you’re thriving as well. In addition to these, there are many support groups—online and physical—with people who know precisely what you’re going through and who are willing to help. 

  1. Avoid the temptation to catastrophize any situation.

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” — Seneca

The only way humans have survived as a species is to be on high alert whenever situations become tense. In caveman days, this was how we avoided predators and harmful conditions. These days, we retain much of this mental wiring even when situations are not as dire as we make them out to be. 

As a loved one, there’s a good chance that your mind has quickly jumped to many worst-case scenarios. The doctor’s knock on the door to discuss care may make you jump and your palms sweat. But how frequently do these conversations upend everything? Likely not very frequently. And even if the news isn’t favorable, it is still important to recall that you’re not alone. 

  1. Lean into the plan.

For many, most anxieties emerge from not knowing what to do next. It can feel like whenever you hear bad news from medical professionals, they’ll simply toss up their hands and walk away like they might be portrayed as doing in TV and movies—leaving you to spiral into a state of overwhelming confusion. Well, here’s the good news—they won’t. They will present you with your new marching orders. 

Even when the news received in these conversations isn’t favorable, there will always be a corresponding strategy for you to help execute. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by these plans, but let them give you purpose. Allow them to be your compass or North star. When you feel lost or confused, consult the plan and make sure you’re doing your part. Again, if the plan feels overwhelming for you, remember that you are not alone. 

Professional Hospice Care in Tulsa, Oklahoma

When we say that you’re not alone, we mean it. If you or a loved one will need or is in need of professional hospice care, look no further than Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

“Hospice” Doesn’t Just Mean “Death”

Posted on May 03, 2022

Most of us are likely accustomed to the following hospital scene from any number of TV shows or movies: 

Either a family is gathered around a loved one in a hospital bed or a character is sitting alone in an examination room—all awaiting the arrival of a doctor to deliver the bad news. This “bad news” is typically a terminal diagnosis or news of projected lifespan. In these scenarios, for the sake of drama, doctors are usually fairly blunt—using statements like, “You don’t have much time,” or “you’re going to die” and then simply walk off down the hallway.

The reality of the situation, though still organically dramatic, tends to be much more helpful in terms of what comes next—especially when it comes to the language used to talk about death—if “death” is discussed much at all. 

“Isn’t ‘hospice’ just a word used to sugarcoat the concept of death?”

So, how do doctors tell patients they’re going to die? Well, in the way they convey most other information—with a plan. 

It’s very rare that the TV or movie scenario mentioned above is actually what one experiences in such a situation. When all efforts to preserve the length of a patient’s life begin to fail, the care strategy simply shifts to preserving the quality of a patient’s life. Around this time, a doctor will typically ask the patient or their immediate caretaker: 

“Have you all considered hospice care?” 

They may also simply state. 

“I think it would be a good idea for you to consider hospice care.” 

While this may seem like code-speak for telling someone they’re going to die from their condition and that doctors have given up on the patient, this isn’t necessarily the case. When the subject of hospice care is brought up by medical professionals, this is simply discussing an adjustment of their strategy. So, no, “hospice” and “death” are not synonymous—people have even “graduated” from hospice care before

And though “hospice” should not be synonymous with “death,” the terms closely coincide in the medical world. Why? Because medical professionals are plan-oriented care providers. Delivering a recommendation that you or a family member consider hospice care is not meant to make you ruminate on your mortality or become anxious, but rather to recommend the option that will result in the highest quality of life possible—as they would for any patient.

“So, is the word ‘hospice’ used to cushion the blow?”

It would be dishonest to state that some medical professionals don’t use the term “hospice” to cushion the blow of delivering an unfavorable prognosis. This has caused “hospice” to become a slightly loaded word. However, what comes to mind for patients or family members is not death, but rather continued care, comfort, and an end to many agonizing symptoms. For some patients who have experienced long, painful conditions and their associated painful treatments, hospice can be seen as a great relief.

Hospice Professionals in Tulsa, Oklahoma

If you or a loved one will need or is in need of professional hospice care, look no further than Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care. Reach out to speak to one of our experienced care specialists today.