Saturday, February 25, 2017

Nyack’s Newest Boutique Celebrates The Circle of Life with Focus on Eco-friendly Burial - Nyack, NY Patch

A new boutique coming to Nyack will celebrate life by focusing on the green, ecologically-friendly aspects of death to rebirth. That’s right, death. It will happen to all of us. But that’s not news. Sometimes, the discussion of death, its circumstances and everything involved are difficult topics to address. However, there is a growing movement going back to the basics....

Kerry Potter of Suffern has long been an advocate for a greener Earth. She is the founder the Rockland Community Foundation’s “Green Cemetery Fund” and is opening Dying to Bloom, her new, natural burial boutique, with a grand opening on February 25, 2017. The store is located at 48 Burd Street in Nyack, across the street from Squash Blossom. “I lost both of my parents in my twenties. At that time, we didn’t think twice about having them embalmed and entombed in a cement vault. As I became educated about the industry, I realized green burials fall more in line with my appreciation for the environment and the planet we leave for future generations. For what seems like an eternity, I have been looking for a way to help advocate and support the trend back to nature and simplicity. We’ve learned to make recycling cans, bottles and newspapers part of our everyday life. We should strive to do the same in death,” said Kerry Potter, Founder, Dying to Bloom.

Nyack’s Newest Boutique Celebrates The Circle of Life with Focus on Eco-friendly Burial - Nyack, NY Patch:

Friday, February 24, 2017

This Unusually Frank Obituary Went Viral

One of the milder selections: "Leslie was surprisingly intelligent, however he lacked ambition and motivation to do anything more than being reckless, wasteful, squandering the family savings and fantasizing about get rich quick schemes.  Leslie's hobbies included being abusive to his family, expediting trips to heaven for the beloved family pets and fishing, which he was less skilled with than the previously mentioned.  Leslie's life served no other obvious purpose, he did not contribute to society or serve his community and he possessed no redeeming qualities besides quick whited sarcasm which was amusing during his sober days."

Leslie Ray Charping obituary. Carnes Funeral Home.:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Grief Brain: It’s a Real Thing! – thelifeididntchoose

[W]hen brain imaging studies are done on people who are grieving, increased activity is seen along a broad network of neurons. These link areas associated not only with mood but also with memory, perception, conceptualization, and even the regulation of the heart, the digestive system, and other organs.  Prevention Magazine

It’s not as bad now as it was in the beginning.
But I still struggle to remember things that used to come easily.  I still hear words that I don’t always understand.  I depend much more on paper and pencil to keep track of important dates, appointments and phone numbers than I used to.  And I never walk away from the stove.
If I make a lunch date with a friend, I ask that she message me the day before to remind me.  If I don’t comprehend what someone is saying, I request that they repeat it.  I keep a paper copy of important information in my purse and an electronic copy on my phone.
It’s frustrating sometimes, but it is not a moral failure that my brain isn’t as sharp as it once was.
What was embarrassing at first is now something I openly acknowledge. 
I ask for help and I don’t apologize.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

First, Sex Ed. Then Death Ed. -

Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter writes that death ed is just as important as sex ed:
I am a doctor who practices both critical and palliative care medicine at a hospital in Oakland, Calif. I love to use my high-tech tools to save lives in the intensive-care unit. But I am also witness to the profound suffering those very same tools can inflict on patients who are approaching the end of life. Too many of our patients die in overmedicalized conditions, where treatments and technologies are used by default, even when they are unlikely to help. Many patients have I.C.U. stays in the days before death that often involve breathing machines, feeding tubes and liquid calories running through those tubes into the stomach. The use of arm restraints to prevent accidental dislodgment of the various tubes and catheters is common. Many of the patients I have cared for at the end of their lives had no idea they were dying, despite raging illness and repeated hospital admissions. The reasons for this are complex and varied — among them poor physician training in breaking bad news and a collective hope that our technologies will somehow ultimately triumph against death. By the time patients are approaching the end, they are often too weak or disabled to express their preferences, if those preferences were ever considered at all. Patients aren’t getting what they say they want. For example, 80 percent of Americans would prefer to die at home, but only 20 percent achieve that wish. Many of us would choose to die in a planned, comfortable way, surrounded by those we love. But you can’t plan for a good death if you don’t know you’re dying. We need to learn how to make a place for death in our lives and we also need to learn how to plan for it. In most cases, the suffering could have been avoided, or at least mitigated, by some education on death and our medical system. The fact is that when patients are prepared, they die better. When they have done the work of considering their own goals and values, and have documented those preferences, they make different choices. What people want when it comes to end-of-life care is almost never as much as what we give them. I am a passionate advocate for educating teenagers to be responsible about their sexuality. And I believe it is past time for us to educate them also about death, an equally important stage of life, and one for which the consequences of poor preparedness are as bad, arguably worse. Ideally this education would come early, well before it’s likely to be needed. I propose that we teach death ed in all of our high schools. I see this curriculum as a civic responsibility. I understand that might sound radical, but bear with me. Why should death be considered more taboo than sex? Both are a natural part of life. We may think death is too scary for kids to talk about, but I believe the consequences of a bad death are far scarier. A death ed program would aim to normalize this passage of life and encourage students to prepare for it, whenever it might come — for them, or for their families.

First, Sex Ed. Then Death Ed. -

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Katherine Arnup on Food, Love, and End of Life Care

“Food is love”

“Food is love,” my partner jokes as she unloads mountains of food from her latest trip to COSTCO. “I can’t help it! I’m Jewish!” she protests, when I wonder aloud how the two of us will ever manage to consume all that food.

As the lineups at Super Stores attest, for a great many people being able to prepare and serve meals is a vital way of showing love.

I never expected to encounter this among families caring for someone who is nearing the end of their life. But that is precisely what I see week after week at the residential hospice where I have volunteered for the past 15 years.

When we are caring for someone who is seriously ill or dying, food can be one of the most important sources of comfort for caregiver and patient alike. No longer able to enjoy socializing or dinner at a restaurant, a person with a terminal illness may still enjoy a special meal, a treat, or even a dish of ice cream topped with Bailey’s Irish Cream. At the hospice, family members load the fridge with special items – meatloaf, lasagna, smoked salmon, pickled onions, cream puffs, chocolate chunk ice cream – anything to ensure that their friend or family member feels loved and catered to. This may be especially true if they are no longer able to provide care at home. Losing the caregiver role that has become central to their identity, they can at least still provide sustenance.

When my sister was dying of metastatic melanoma, finding things that she might enjoy became my ongoing challenge. Whether because of the pain medication or the disease itself, Carol felt nauseous nearly every day. This was compounded by the fact that she was lactose intolerant, allergic to many foods, and was perpetually constipated (the result of the opioids she was taking.) Not surprisingly, she was reluctant to eat or drink. I scoured specialty grocery stores in vain searching for something besides ginger ale that she could tolerate.

When someone is dying, they will gradually eat and drink less and less until finally they may be unable to tolerate any food and drink as their organs shut down. This stage can be extremely alarming for family members. A wife who has cooked special meals for her husband in hopes that he would keep up his strength may be devastated when he turns away from her special soup. “My husband is so stubborn I could kill him,” one woman blurted out in frustration. She would have nothing to do with my explanation that his unwillingness to eat might be the natural outcome of the disease process.
The son or daughter who has been bringing supper to their mother throughout her illness may feel lost without that tangible demonstration of their love. A mother or father, caring for their seriously ill or dying child, may feel as if there is nothing else they can do.

In the final stages of life, food and drink can prove to be fatal. A patient who has difficulty swallowing may aspirate even a tiny piece of the food or liquid, causing pneumonia and even death. For patients with a bowel obstruction, any amount of food can cause pain, bloating, and even a perforated bowel.

To prevent such outcomes, it is important for health care providers to explain the dying process to family members and caregivers. Reassure them that refusing food and drink is a natural occurrence at the end of life, not a rejection of their love. They are welcome to offer sips or tastes but they must never attempt to force their loved one to eat or drink.

As I learned from my caring for my sister, providing food is not the only way to show your love. Your presence – calm, patient, loving – is by far the most important gift you can provide. Watching a movie, reading aloud, playing music or singing – all are ways to ease their journey and demonstrate your love. In the final phase of life, being present is much more important than doing.

Katherine Arnup PhD is a writer, speaker, caregiver, hospice volunteer and retired university professor. Her most recent book, I don’t have time for this!” A Compassionate Guide to Caring for Your Parents and Yourself, is available on Amazon.

She blogs about life and death at Hospice Volunteering.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

'I know they are going to die.' This foster father takes in only terminally ill children - Chicago Tribune

The children were going to die. Mohamed Bzeek knew that. But in his more than two decades as a foster father, he took them in anyway — the sickest of the sick in Los Angeles County’s sprawling foster care system. He has buried about 10 children. Some died in his arms. Now, Bzeek spends long days and sleepless nights caring for a bedridden 6-year-old foster girl with a rare brain defect. She’s blind and deaf. She has daily seizures. Her arms and legs are paralyzed. Bzeek, a quiet, devout Libyan-born Muslim who lives in Azusa, just wants her to know she’s not alone in this life.  “I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her,” he said. “I’m always holding her, playing with her, touching her. … She has feelings. She has a soul. She’s a human being.”

'I know they are going to die.' This foster father takes in only terminally ill children - Chicago Tribune

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Thinking/Talking About Death Makes You Feel Better, Not Worse

Christine Colby has an excellent post that explains how talking and thinking about death can increase your sense of control and calm -- for those who are dying, those around them, and those who are going to die some day, meaning everyone:

Andrew Kneier, a clinical psychologist who works with cancer patients, shares that often the dying want to speak of what is happening to them, but that their friends and loved ones don’t give them the space to do so, urging them to remain positive and hopeful, and “fight.” In a study he performed at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center, which he discusses in his book Finding Your Way Through Cancer, he was able to discern six main factors continuously mentioned by his patients as they came to terms with their impending deaths:

Gratitude for their lives and positive experiences
Pride in accomplishments
Faith or spirituality
Making changes in order to be more at peace when death comes
Their legacy, or positive contributions to others
Loving and being loved
He emphasizes that these were the topics privately consuming his patients, who had felt unable or unwelcome to discuss the topics with their families and loved ones.

I find that terribly sad, and it just validates that accepting, embracing, and, yes, maybe even obsessing about death is an important and valuable part of life.

Read about death. Learn about death. Think about death. Make decisions about your own death. Ask your friends and loved ones about their deaths. And if at all possible, do what you can to assure that you die a Good Death.

Christine Colby@batgrrlnyc
Christine Colby is a writer/editor specializing in the darker side. She has been a speaker at Death Salon L.A. and Death Salon Mütter Museum, and was a founding member of the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

Have Your Wishes For Care Known Before A Health Crisis Strikes : Shots - Health News : NPR

 "I found myself wishing we could just stop our full-court press on Helen. The humane thing to do, it seemed to me, would be to stop aggressive medical treatment and let nature take its course. After nearly two weeks of intensive care with no improvement in her condition, Helen's daughter instructed us to stop the mechanical ventilator. She died an hour later. Stories like Helen's occur in ICUs all over the country every day, unfortunately. Often these situations are flashpoints of tension between the hopes and expectations of families and the realities seen by the medical team. But it doesn't have to be this way. If we lessen the stigma around death as an unmentionable topic by forcing ourselves to talk to our loved ones about what we want at the end of life, we can vastly diminish the amount of energy and suffering that come with trying to prolong life when nature tells us otherwise."

Have Your Wishes For Care Known Before A Health Crisis Strikes : Shots - Health News : NPR