After doing psychotherapy for close to 40 years, my professional focus now includes a strong emphasis on death education, end of life care, grief counseling and grief support. My commitment to thanatology is the direct result of what happened during the final weeks of my husband Bill's life. My hope is to help prevent or minimize the unnecessary pain and confusion we experienced in those final weeks.

In spite of all of my efforts Bill came very close to dying in a noisy, institutional hospital setting instead of peacefully at home as we wanted. Thanks to one "fill-in" psychiatrist, he was able to die at home having been transferred via ambulance just five days earlier. Those five days were precious gifts allowing Bill to die peacefully in the quiet of our home wrapped in my arms with Bentley, our Golden Retriever, curled up at his feet.
I share this because Bill came close to being one of the 70% who want to die at home but who actually die in a hospital or other institutional setting. This, in spite of having a strong advocate in me and advanced directives. But I was an advocate who was not as well informed as I could have been. My inexperience and lack of information resulted in decisions I would, in hind sight, never have made. I did not ask the right questions and did not contact Hospice early enough. In the four years since, I cannot tell you how many similar and worse stories I have heard.
It is with this in mind that I am using this post to urge you to do all you can now to make certain that you and your loved ones have the best end of life care possible and the best death possible. Granted the preparations you make might never be used because of accidental death, a heart attack, or other traumatic death over which we have no control. But for most of us, death will be the result of an illness that leads to treatment and ultimately to death.

Those preparations include honest conversations with your loved ones now so that each person's wishes are honored when the time comes. And come it will. Following these conversations it is essential to create a plan and advanced directives for all members of the family. These advanced directives include a detailed living will, a will for property, and any other needed documents. If you have children, making legal arrangements for medical power of attorney for them is highly advised to all parents should you and your partner/spouse become involved in an accidental and quick death.

Click to watch a 1 minute video on the
difference between palliative care and hospice care.

Ideally you will have a relationship with a physician who will work with you in creating good end of life care. and you will have researched the locations and quality of the best palliative and medical care in your area. You and your loved ones deserve this. It is not something you get to do over. We are all going to die in spite of living in a society that often acts as if death and grief do not exist. Putting a balanced focus on this reality can totally change how each person in your family lives in those final days and how each person dies.

Get Your Shit Together

Ellen Goodman's Conversation Project

Ira Byock's Website  (The Best Care Possible)

Hospice and Palliative Care blogs at Grief Healing

The Documents You Need When You Need Them (NY Times app for smart phone)

Since I am based in Wisconsin, I am posting a link to the program: Honoring Choices Wisconsin created to assist residents with advanced directives. I urge you to see what is available in your own state or community:  Honoring Choices Wisconsin




05/17/2016 8:24am

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