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Communication of the Dying May 13, 2012

Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
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In a blog I posted some weeks ago I talked about a dying friend who developed a communication system that helped the caregivers know his physical needs when he became too weak to talk. There’s another aspect of communication that I also feel is worth serious consideration and that is the communication of needs beyond the physical; needs that relate to the person’s emotional well being. Sometimes those needs are articulated clearly and early on, but as death approaches those needs may not be communicated clearly at all.

Several times on this site I’ve mentioned the book Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying  by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelly. This book made a strong impression on me. Both Callanan and Kelly had been hospice nurses for quite some time and between them have accumulated a wonderful body of experience, especially when it comes to the communication of the dying. I read this book after K passed away and wished I had read it several months earlier. As a matter of fact, I liked this book so much I bought quite a few copies and gave them away to friends and people I know in caregiving situations. (more…)

The Comfort of Silence March 31, 2012

Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
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When my Grandmother was facing her last days from breast cancer she was being cared for in the hospital. Her children had passed away before her (my mother was one) and her husband had passed away when they were young. I went to visit her one day and she was in that nebulous state which I don’t know whether to call a coma or just an internal world in which it is easier to rest and gradually withdraw while the outer world passes by.

The TV was on in the room and a golf tournament was playing. A golf tournament! I don’t think my grandmother played a stroke of golf in her life and I was certain she had no interest. I suppose the thought someone had behind turning on golf might have been that the commentators talk quietly but at the same time provide a way to fill the silence in the room; still, it just seemed so odd.  I couldn’t help think about how often people show discomfort with silence and how it would be easy to assume someone dying has the same discomfort.  Anyway, I doubt the golf tournament was providing much entertainment for grandma.

I noticed with K that as she got weaker she would spend a lot of time in a semi sleeping state. One afternoon she had been lying on the bed for 3 or 4 hours. I asked her how she was doing and she responded positively; she was in fact awake.  I thought she might want some entertainment, but she didn’t. She was content to lie there; no radio, no TV, no book, no music. I respected this and felt I understood it as well. (more…)