Heartbreaking Photo Series Documents the Raw Final Moments Owners Spend With Their Dying Pets

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Any pet owner will tell you that losing them is as great a pain as losing any member of the family. It’s in these moments we’re at our most vulnerable. One brave photographer has taken on the task of capturing such fragile moments in a series that documents owners struggling to cope in the last moments of their animal’s life.

Ross Taylor’s powerful new series is one that’s sure to bring a tear to the eye of any pet owner. His inspiration came after being “profoundly moved” by witnessing a friend struggle with the deteriorating health of her pet and her subsequent decision of euthanasia. The collection of images, he says, explores the intimacy of the human-animal bond, specifically “the last moments before and after the passing of a pet at home with their owner.”

Leigh Zahn fights back tears as she lays with her dog, Spencer, in her lap a final time, just moments after Spencer passed.
“She’s always been my companion. Coco was there for me when he was on deployment,” said Rebecca Cassity, as she fights back tears. Her husband, Drew, was in the military. Dr. McVety reassures her with a hug and consoling words: “This is better treatment than any one of us would get.”

The images were taken in Tampa Bay, Florida throughout 2017-18 and involved working closely with the families involved. The pet owners seen in the images were aided by veterinarians from Lap of Love, a pet euthanasia service that allows for a peaceful passing at home. Founded by Dani McVety, the organization has been working with Caring Pathways, all of whom Taylor expresses utmost gratitude for. “It couldn’t be done without their willingness to participate and belief in the project… They have my respect,” Taylor said.

In one of the most intense moments I’ve ever witnessed, Wendy Lehr cuddled beside her dog, Mimosa, shortly after she passed. The muffled sounds of her cries filled the empty room as she nuzzled against her face. She cried out: “Oh my baby, oh my baby. What am going to do without you?”
“It’s tough saying goodbye,” said Carrie Peterson after she dropped sunflowers over the grave of her dog, Asia. The smell of freshly turned earth is what I remember and how peaceful Asia looked within it.

While difficult, the at-home euthanasia process can be one that mitigates some of the painful reality of the end of life. It’s worth noting that the vets I’ve worked with are some of the most compassionate people I’ve met and always offer the families a chance to have a respectful moment afterwards with their beloved pet. It’s in stillness of these moments that I sometimes felt the most emotional for everyone involved.

Bob Zahn touches his dog, Spencer, just moments after the dog passed. His wife, Leigh, left the room immediately, as it was too much for her to take. “She’s going to take it harder maybe than the loss of her parents. Your parents can tell you when something’s wrong, but your dog can’t.”
Vanessa Gangadyal consoles her son, Ian, 8, while her husband, Michael Gangadyal, pets their dog, Ally, shortly after its passing.
“When I was sick, she knew something was wrong,” said Bob Lutz about their dog, Heidi, who looked up at them moments before she was euthanized due to recent substantial declines in health. His wife, Cindy, added: “she helped take away our pain.” At right, watching, is their other dog, Winnie.

If you were as moved as we were by this powerful series, you can see more of Taylor’s work (some of which saw him nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) at his website and Instagram.

Complete Article HERE!

Schools fall short when it comes to helping students in grief

– here’s how they can improve

Many children experience the death of a loved one. How teachers respond matters.

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An adolescent experiences the death of his mother after a lengthy illness.

When I ask what services he would like to receive from the school, he initially says he didn’t expect special treatment, would be embarrassed by counseling from the school mental health staff and wouldn’t feel comfortable if many of his teachers asked to talk to him about his grief.

At the same time, the student felt as though the school should somehow take his situation into account.

“I don’t know what the school should do,” the student told me. “But I just lost the person I love most in my life and they act as if nothing happened.”

In my many years as a developmental-behavioral pediatrician who specializes in school crisis and child bereavement, I believe this dilemma – that is, the need to do enough but not to overwhelm the grieving student or the adults who are trying to help – represents a major challenge for America’s schools.

The need for recognition by trusted adults of their loss, a genuine expression of sympathy and an offer of assistance is often what students seek after a major loss – but too often don’t receive.

A common experience

Loss is very common in childhood – 9 out of 10 children experience the death of a close family member or friend and 1 in 20 children experience the death of a parent.

In contrast, teacher preparation to support grieving students is uncommon. In a recent survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers and the New York Life Foundation, 93 percent of teachers reported that they never received any training on how to support grieving students. They identified this lack of training as the primary barrier that prevented them from reaching out to grieving students in their class and offering the support they knew they needed. Worried that they would do or say the wrong thing and only make matters worse, some educators chose instead to say and do nothing.

In recognition of this problem, I offer a series of insights and recommendations that teachers can adopt to make the school experience less stressful for students who have recently lost a loved one. Although the advice is aimed at educators, surviving parents or caretakers or anyone who cares about how to help bereaved students can use this advice to advocate on their behalf.

The consequences of inaction

Saying nothing says a lot to grieving children. It communicates that adults are either unaware, uninterested or unwilling to help. It leaves children confused about what has happened and how to react. It leaves children unsupported and forces them to grieve alone. Adults should reach out to grieving children and let them know that they are aware and concerned and are available to provide support and assistance.

What not to say

Anything that starts with “at least” should probably be reconsidered – “at least she’s not in pain anymore” or “at least you still have your father” are generally not helpful comments. It suggests that the adult is uncomfortable with the child’s expression of grief and is trying to “cheer up” the grieving child in order to limit the adult’s own discomfort. Don’t encourage children to hide their feelings or reactions, and don’t feel that you have to hide your own emotions. Be genuine and authentic. Tell grieving children that you are sorry about their loss and ask them what they are feeling and how they are doing.

There isn’t anything you can say that is going to make everything right again for a grieving child. So, listen more than you talk. Other guidelines of what not to say – and what to say instead – to grieving children can be found in “The Grieving Student: A Teacher’s Guide.”

Engage peers

Peers want to – and can – be an important source of support to grieving children, but often are unsure what to say or do. Provide them advice on what to say and practical suggestions on how to be helpful. This will help grieving children obtain critical peer support and decrease their sense of isolation. It will also reduce the likelihood that peers will instead ask repetitive and intrusive questions or tease grieving children.

Offer academic accommodations

Grieving children often experience a temporary decrease in learning ability. They may be tired from not being able to sleep, have difficulty concentrating and learning new material, or may be experiencing significant disruptions in their home environment that make it difficult to study or complete homework.

Grieving children should view school as a place of comfort and support, especially at a time of loss. If they are worried about failing, school becomes instead a source of additional distress. Teachers should offer educational support before children demonstrate academic failure. Check in more frequently to make sure that they are learning new material and are able to keep up with the workload.

Talk to other teachers, instructors and coaches and try to help grieving students balance all of their responsibilities. If the student needs to prepare for an important concert, then maybe academic teachers can lessen some of their assignments. Grieving students may need to have their workload decreased or modified temporarily. If a major report seems overwhelming, substitute with shorter and more manageable assignments. If it’s hard for them to stay on task to complete an individual project, consider a group project that might promote peer support.

Be more sensitive

Teachers can also introduce activities with more sensitivity. For example, if you are going to do a project for Mother’s Day, introduce the activity by telling students that you realize some children may not have a mother who is alive or living with them. They can still complete the activity remembering their mother, or can choose to focus on another important female family member. This will also help students whose mothers may be deployed in the military or incarcerated, or away for other reasons.

Help children manage grief triggers

Many things may remind grieving children about the person who died and cause them to temporarily feel a resurgence of their grief. It may be a comment made by a teacher or a peer, such as “I went shopping with my mother this weekend,” or a portion of a classroom lesson, such as a health education lesson that references a similar cause of death.

Holidays such as Thanksgiving or the winter holidays tend to involve spending time with loved ones and may accentuate the sense of loss. Let students know that these triggers may occur and set up a safety plan. Students may be given permission to step out of the classroom briefly if they are feeling upset and worried that they will not be able to contain their emotions. Work out a signal to communicate when this occurs that doesn’t draw attention to the student. Make a plan for where the student will go and who they can talk with. If students know that they will be able to leave, they often feel less overwhelmed and will be more likely to remain in class and stay engaged in the lesson.

For more information

The Coalition to Support Grieving Students offers free learning modules on a wide range of issues related to grieving students, including videos and written summaries. Schools can also learn more about how to help grieving students through the Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative.

Complete Article HERE!

Washington bill would make it legal to compost human remains into soil

Recomposting would let people skip traditional burial and cremation practices for a greener option.

A computer-rendered vision of what a Recompose facility would look like.

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Would you prefer to be cremated or buried in a casket? Washington might give residents an additional option if it becomes the first US state to legalize an unusual end-of-life practice — composting human remains.

“Recomposting” — which advertises as more environmentally friendly than traditional funeral practices — is a process where a human body is quickly decomposed using heat-loving microbes and beneficial bacteria.

The temperature is kept at 131 degrees Fahrenheit (55 Celsius) for 72 consecutive hours. The remains are then added into soil that can be used as mulch for trees, flowers and other plants.

Washington State Sen. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat, plans to introduce a recomposting bill in January, NBC reports.

If passed, the bill would legalize recomposting in Washington so citizens could choose an alternative to the traditional methods of burial and cremation of human remains.

The Seattle company Recompose would be responsible for the actual composting of human bodies. 

In 2017, Pederson introduced a similar bill but says it failed due to opposition from religious groups, according to NBC.

Neither Sen. Pedersen or Recompose, the company that would be responsible for the actual composting of human bodies, responded to a request for comment.

“The transformation of human to soil happens inside our reusable, hexagonal recomposition vessels,” the Recompose website says. “When the process has finished, families will be able to take home some of the soil created, while gardens on-site will remind us that all of life is interconnected.”

During the recomposting process, bodies are screened for non-organic materials like metal teeth fillings, pacemakers and artificial limbs, which are recycled whenever possible.

The entire process takes a month, and can produce a cubic yard of soil per person, according to Recompose.

While this may sound ideal to people wanting an environmental-friendly option to burial, not everyone can go through the recomposting process. Some pathogens (like the bacteria that causes anthrax) may be resistant to the composting process, so people with certain health conditions may be ineligible.

While recomposting has yet to be made legal in the US, “green burials” (bury human bodies without chemicals) are legal in all 50 states. Currently, recomposting a human body is legal in Sweden.

Complete Article HERE!

My sons’ grief at a friend’s death has forced me to see I can’t shelter them forever

One thing never ceases to strike fear into the heart of parents: the idea of our kids dying before us

The idea that someone could be in your life one day and gone the next was incomprehensible to Jo Davies’ sons.

By Jo Davies

I was at the grocery store the other night when my younger sons and I ran into my next-door neighbour toting his six-week-old son.

After cooing over Junior’s beautiful blue eyes and his adorable expressions for a bit, one of my boys asked to touch the little one’s cheek. My neighbor hesitated for a moment and then declined, saying the baby hadn’t yet had his second round of vaccinations.

I was shocked for a moment, then smiled, reminding myself we were dealing with that most nervous of Nellies: the first-time parent.

Whether you have kids or not, you’ve likely heard the stereotype of the hyper-responsible first-time mom or dad jumping to boil the baby’s pacifier the second it touches the floor or rushing to the ER for every uptick in temperature.

Undoubtedly, this initial hyper-vigilance serves a purpose: it’s Mother Nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the species. All parents go through it, and most get over it.

There’s one thing, however, that never ceases to strike fear into the heart of parents: the idea of our kids dying before us.

A few weeks ago, my sons’ classmate died at the age of 15.

He was a nice boy — quiet and respectful and kind. His death was unexpected, shocking and a heartbreaking introduction into the ways of grief not only for my two sons, but their school community as well.

At this point in their young lives, my sons haven’t experienced the death of anyone close to them except for their grandparents. That was obviously upsetting for them, but their father and I were able to help them to rationalize it, because their grandparents were much older than them; they’d lived a good life and left a legacy for which their many friends and family would remember them fondly.

When their friend died, however, it was virtually impossible to come to terms with it.

Despite the best efforts of their teachers and school counsellors, my boys were at a loss. The idea that someone could be in your life one day and gone the next was incomprehensible to them.

I asked myself: knowing what I know about death (my father died suddenly when I was 24), how can I make the death of their friend make sense to them? I came to the conclusion that I can’t.

There is no way to make sense of such a tragic circumstance, to find a silver lining. All I can do is try to help them cope with what’s happened.

To that end, I’ve done my best to read up on teenage grief, so I can be useful to my sons.

I’ve learned that, as with adults, teenage grief is as unique as each individual who experiences it. It can’t be dictated or forced to fit someone else’s conception of what’s appropriate.

I’ve also realized that for teenagers, grieving is just one more complication in an already turbulent period of life. The death of a close friend can cause them to question their own, newly formed identities as young adults; to ask questions they might never have considered before about life and mortality.

What’s been hardest for me in this process is watching my sons come to the realization that life, at its core, is uncertain. There are no guarantees of happy, long lives for the ones you love, even if you wish there were.

Up until now, their teenage brains (with their still-developing sense of consequences) have helped to make them feel invincible, or if not invincible, at least unconcerned with thoughts of dying — which seemed to me to be as it should be. Kids should be able to live their lives without constantly thinking about death and dying.

 

Now they know words like “hearse” and “pallbearer” and “condolences.” They have witnessed the depths of a parent’s grief as they listened to their friend’s mother describe all the ways she will miss him.

They’ve also been surprised by kindness from unexpected quarters; friends they didn’t know cared who gave them a hug or a tissue.

They have learned a lot of things over the past few weeks, as have I.

Mainly, I’ve learned that there was still a part of me that thought I could keep them safe from the harsh realities of life. I can’t, and that hurts.

However, just as I taught all three of my sons to use a spoon, to tie their shoelaces and to say “please” and “thank you,” I can teach them other things that are even more useful.

I can teach them to value each day they have on this earth, to be grateful that they knew their friend, and to be happy they were good friends to him during his short time here.

I’m pretty sure those are lessons worth learning.

Complete Article HERE!

As baby boomers age, ‘we are in for a death boom.’

Grief expert urges support for mourning workers.

Bobbi Manka, right, works with her colleague Jen Gallois, left, at Tyson Fresh Meats on Dec. 11, 2018, in Elgin. Manka’s co-workers helped her following the death of her husband, Dan Manka, in January 2016.

By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz

Bobbi and Daniel Manka were settling into bed after a night out dancing when Daniel stood up, clutched his chest and gasped, “911.”

Just like that, Bobbi Manka lost her husband of 44 years and gained “a hole in my heart that will never be replaced.”

But she has found comfort where she didn’t know she would: at work.

Grief after the death of a loved one inevitably follows people to work, where employers and co-workers often are unprepared to handle the immediate sorrow or the surges of pain that ambush mourners at milestones like birthdays and holidays.

Some of the shortcomings can be linked to insufficient bereavement leave policies, but often what fails is the human response to a suffering colleague.

“We have become an increasingly death-denying society,” said Amy Florian, CEO of Corgenius, a Hoffman Estates-based organization that trains businesses on how to help grieving clients and employees. “And when we don’t talk about it, we don’t know how to do it well: how to accompany people through grief.”

Florian said employers would be wise to prepare for the impact of grief on business as aging baby boomers, who are staying in the workplace longer, move toward the end of life.

“We are in for a death boom, we are in for a dementia boom,” said Florian, a fellow in thanatology, the study of death and bereavement. “All of these things are going to happen but firms are not prepared for it.”

Being prepared includes understanding that grieving individuals will cope differently, and employers should accommodate their unique needs, Florian said.

Nearly 90 percent of employers say they offer paid bereavement leave — usually three days for an immediate family member — but that’s not nearly enough time for many people, especially when the death is sudden, she said. Employers might want to consider more generous policies as well as expand them to accommodate deaths beyond immediate family, as losing an aunt or friend can be just as devastating if the relationship was close, Florian said.

No federal law requires employers to give workers time off to grieve, though Illinois has a law, which went into effect two years ago, that provides up to 10 working days of unpaid leave for the death of a child at companies with at least 50 employees.

Florian said employers also should not expect grief-stricken employees to function normally when they return to work, as their concentration is shot, their minds are disorganized and they may be prone to making mistakes. Some employees will need additional support for a month or two once they’re back on the job, such as flexible work schedules, more breaks, adjusted expectations and someone to catch errors, with the assurance that their performance reviews won’t suffer, she said.

Educating co-workers on how to best support a grieving colleague can also help. Many people fumble awkwardly as they try to express sympathy, or avoid the topic altogether because they don’t know what to say, Florian said.

“What is often very shocking for people to learn is that ‘I am so sorry’ is not the best thing to say when someone dies,” Florian said. “The focus is all wrong, it’s on the comforter and not the griever.” Better to ask about the person who died — what they were like, how it happened, making sure to use his or her name, she said. If someone doesn’t want to talk about it, they will close the door on the conversation, she said.

Bobbi Manka pokes her head into Scott Leckrone’s office at Tyson Fresh Meats on Dec. 11, 2018 in Elgin. Leckrone, Manka’s boss, and other colleagues provided emotional support to Manka after her husband died in January 2016.

Manka, 64, who lives in Genoa, a town about 65 miles northwest of Chicago, said she was surprised to discover how often people didn’t ask how she was doing after her husband died suddenly of a massive heart attack two years ago.

“They are afraid that they might trigger something and you might start crying,” she said. “Even if I did, it would have been a good thing.”

But Manka, an administrative assistant in the Tyson Foods sales office in Elgin, was pleasantly surprised at how her colleagues stepped up during her crisis, even though she’d worked at the company only two years at the time and no one from the office had met her husband — the kind of guy “who would take his shirt off and give it to anyone,” she said.

Her boss and a colleague not only attended his “celebration of life” but stayed through the event and got to know her family, she said. When her three days of bereavement leave were up and she couldn’t bring herself to return to work, she was given an extra week off unpaid. She was eager to return when she did.

“My world had been rocked so incredibly hard that coming back to work helped me, because the house was so empty,” Manka said. “Work was my safe place for a long time.”

As she struggled to adjust to her new reality, Manka sought counseling from Tyson’s chaplaincy program, a network of 100 chaplains employed by the company to help Tyson workers navigate life challenges. She found solace in the Bible verses she was given and the advice about how to help her children through their grief as she dealt with her own.

Small kindnesses in her office of 12 have made a big difference, she said. On Manka’s first birthday after her husband’s death, her co-workers presented her with a big cake and card, and told her “we want you to know you’re part of the family,” Manka said. On her wedding anniversary, or when anything happens that triggers memories, her boss can detect a shift in her mood and urges her to take a walk and clear her head.

Such accommodations pay off in the long term, Florian said.

“People who felt they were treated compassionately during times of grief are incredibly loyal to their employer,” she said.

Grief last year cost employers an estimated $113.27 billion in reduced productivity and on-the-job errors, a calculation that takes into account not only the deaths of loved ones but also other traumatic losses such as divorce or home foreclosures, according to the Grief Recovery Institute, an organization based in Bend, Ore., that trains therapists and counselors in grief recovery.

That estimate is up from $75 billion the last time the nonprofit released its Grief Index in 2002, a increase driven by inflation as well as changing workforce demographics as the population ages, said Operations Manager Ed Owens.

Yet employers are rarely proactive about addressing grief in the workplace, and typically only seek help when an employee has died and co-workers need support, said David Fireman, executive director of the Center for Grief Recovery and Therapeutic Services in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.

“If I had my druthers, (grief training) would be a built-in component to employee orientation,” Fireman said.

While the aging population is one source of workplace grief, another is the city’s violence. Fireman’s organization last year counseled students and faculty at the Chicago Waldorf School after a teacher at the school was killed by a stray bullet while she waited at a nearby Red Line station. He continues to be available to them because “grief is a process and there might be delayed reactions,” he said.

GrieveWell, a nonprofit in Ann Arbor, Mich., that provides grief training to employers and peer-to-peer support for grieving adults, is trying to raise the profile of grief as an “unspoken public health issue” with dangerous consequences if it is not addressed, said Amy Milanovich, former executive director.

Unresolved grief, a clinical term that refers to intense mourning that persists for a long time and interferes with daily functioning, has been linked to an increase in heart disease, stroke and cancer, she said.

The workplace has become increasingly important as a source of support as community traditions that used to surround people in mourning have been cut short amid a social expectation to get back to life as usual, she said.

“Everyone around is someone who could be in grief and everyone needs to be someone who can support them,” Milanovich said. In addition to conducting business lunch-and-learns on the topic, GrieveWell offers a deeper training in active listening for employees who want to be the designated ear colleagues turn to in time of need.

ComPsych, a Chicago-based provider of employee assistance programs, has seen a steady increase in crisis counseling calls about bereavement, likely because employers have become more aware of the need for mental health support, spokeswoman Jennifer Hudson said. Employees over 60 are the most likely of all age groups to seek bereavement help, the company’s data show.

Eric Freckman, a certified financial planner in Palatine, said grief training at his firm has led to improved relationships with clients, who often find themselves navigating unfamiliar bank accounts and investments when a spouse or parent passes away. Increasingly, grief strikes even before death as more people live longer with diminished capacity, he said.

People tend to make emotional decisions around money, especially when they’re grieving, so it takes empathy to guide them to the best decision, Freckman said.

“There’s the answer in Excel of what they should do,” he said. “But getting people to actually do that is very difficult.”

Financial adviser Eric Freckman, left, meets with Keith Leust, of Barrington, at the Guillaume & Freckman office on Dec. 27, 2018, in Palatine.

Freckman said he used to be “sort of terrified” of talking with clients about their loved one’s death, and would avoid it by sticking to discussing numbers. But after training with Florian at Corgenius he feels comfortable engaging in conversations about the loss — “How did you find out?” he asks. “What was it like for you?” “Are there phone calls we can make for you?” — and leaving the paperwork to later meetings. Ninety percent of clients want to talk, and the care shown has helped solidify trust, he said.

“We keep track of people’s birthdays, we try to call and let them know we’re thinking about them, that we know it’s a hard day, the first Christmas alone,” he said. “It’s all relatively simple stuff when you think about it.”

The simple stuff can make a big difference, Florian said. She knows from experience.

Florian was 25 and a new mom to a 7-month-old boy when her husband, John, went to a business meeting and never returned. A farm insurance agent, he was killed when his car was struck broadside on a rural Iowa road on a sleety February night.

“I felt like my future had simply evaporated in an instant,” Florian said. “And nobody knew what to say to me.”

Florian, a stay-at-home mom at the time, felt “every breath was different” after that day, as she adjusted to the empty pillow, the coffee for one, the realization that “anyone could die at any time.”

She felt alone as many people avoided talking about her husband after the funeral. She was grateful to those who did, especially when they said his name.

“It’s such a comfort to know that John’s life made a difference, that someone remembers besides me,” she said. “That his death left a void in the world, not just my life.”

Florian noticed the various ways well-meaning people’s support was insufficient. They’d ask if she needed anything, but she felt bad taking advantage of those offers, worried she’d be a burden. More helpful, she said, was when people identified what needed doing and offered to do it, such as shopping for groceries, weeding the garden or babysitting her son.

Florian recalls working with a financial professional who would change the subject when she started to tear up. So she was impressed when another financial planner, on their first meeting, looked at her file and said: “I see that you are widowed. Tell me about John.”

Her experience propelled her to get a graduate degree in pastoral studies and advanced certification in grief counseling, and she taught ministry courses on death and grieving at Loyola University for 11 years.

Decades after John’s death, Florian is remarried, and her sadness lives alongside her joy. She can still be sent into a sobbing fit in the grocery store aisle when she hears a certain song – and that’s OK.

“The point of healing is not to forget,” she said. “The point is to remember.”

Complete Article HERE!

Disney Movies Can Help Kids Understand the Concept of Death

So says a new study.

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Whether it was Bambi’s mother, Mufasa, or Syndrome, everyone remembers that one Disney death that really made an impact. Likely, it was your first encounter with a character meeting an untimely demise. Well, according to a new study from the University of Buffalo, Disney films can actually play a huge part in helping kids understand and accept death.

Why Disney movies specifically? Well, first and foremost, Disney (and Pixar) movies feature a lot of death. In fact, according to Business Insider, researchers Kelly Tenzek and Bonnie Nickels analyzed 57 Disney and Pixar films and found that, overall, there were a total of 71 character deaths. Researchers also noted that characters in kid’s movies are twice as likely to die than characters in movies aimed for adults.

In addition to all the death, the study, which was published in OMEGA Death and Dying, confirmed that the movies also feature themes that allow kids to handle death in a way that they would otherwise not be able. The movies use intentional patterns to teach kids lessons about life and death via “the character’s status in the film, the cause of death, whether the death was presented or implied, and also whether they were the good or the bad guy.”

An example of one of these themes in action is the fact that in several Disney movies, the main villain falls to their death instead of actually being killed by the protagonist. Think of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast or Captain Hook in Peter Pan. Why is this significant? According to the study, this frees the hero from responsibility and makes the death feel more justified in the eyes of young kids.

Disney movies also benefit from the fact that they are primarily animated. This allows kids to engage with the concept of death without it feeling too real. A child can know that a character such as Mufasa has died but also know that the character is ultimately fictional, which in turn allows them to grasp the concept of death without being overwhelmed.

So next time you’re watching The Lion King for the 100th time with your kid and you’re totally Timon and Pumbaa’d out, appreciate that, in addition to lodging the rhyme of “thin-skinned” and “downwind” in your head for the rest of the day, it  may just help your kid come to understand mortality a bit more.

Complete Article HERE!

Doctor seeks to ease fear, anxiety and discomfort surrounding impending death

Dr. Bob Uslander with a patient

By Joe Tash

Dr. Bob Uslander’s No. 1 goal is to provide people who are in the final stage of life with a “soft landing.”

To Uslander, who runs a Del Mar-based medical practice, that means focusing on patients’ dignity, quality of life, and peace of mind as they approach their final days.

A former emergency room doctor, Uslander said he launched his practice – Integrated MD Care – about three years ago after noticing gaps in the health care system, particularly when it comes to caring for elderly patients and those with serious illnesses.

His solution was a model for delivering health care that creates a deep connection between caregivers, patients and their family members. The care team includes a doctor, nurses and therapists, and works with patients in their homes.

While the health care system, including palliative and hospice care, is very compassionate and works to make patients comfortable as their lives end, said Uslander, what’s missing is someone talking to them about their options for their final days, and how they want to experience their end of life.

“No one is talking to them about how they want to die, and what they want that experience to be,” Uslander said. “They miss the opportunity to have a truly empowered, transformational and meaningful end-of-life experience. The conversations aren’t happening.”

Before launching his practice, Uslander said he set out to research end-of-life care and see what was available What he found was a gap in the health care system, which he is trying to fill. He said he is not aware of any other practice like his.

“We’ve proven the model, that it works,” said Uslander, noting that he has seen the results in the improved quality of life for patients and their families.

In 2017, Uslander began caring for Jane Gillenwaters of La Costa, who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that left her wracked with coughing spasms, gasping for air.

Jane’s husband of 62 years, Ed Gillenwaters, said the family watched as Jane deteriorated and lived with fear, anxiety and discomfort, knowing there was no cure for her illness.

Uslander took over her care in the final weeks of Jane’s life, and there was an immediate change. Not only did Uslander make changes that left her more physically comfortable, such as finding her a new, more effective machine to dispense oxygen, and taking her off of medications that weren’t helping, but he also talked to her about her end-of-life options and listened to what she had to say.

“His care restored her personal dignity. The more she talked about what she was thinking and feeling the more relaxed she became,” Gillenwaters said. “What he did was set her free from terrible fear and anxiety that is too often associated with impending death.”

The change in Jane’s outlook in turn lifted a “crushing emotional burden” from her husband and children, said Gillenwaters. When she died, Gillenwaters said, she was relaxed and peaceful, and no longer struggling for each breath.

Uslander has assembled a team of nurses, doctors, social workers and therapists, who can offer a range of services depending on the needs and desires of patients. Those services might include massage or music therapy, nutrition assistance or acupuncture.

The practice is considered a concierge service, said Uslander, meaning that doctors and nurses are available by phone on a 24/7 basis.

Patients pay a monthly fee ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on their specific needs. The practice does not accept insurance, because Uslander said, “the low reimbursement and onerous administrative burden reduces the ability to provide excellent care.”

Because his practice is privately run, said Uslander, he has the option of reducing or waiving fees where appropriate. He’s also launched a nonprofit, the Integrated Lifecare Foundation, to provide education and raise money to pay for end-of-life care for those who can’t afford it.

Gillenwaters said he was so impressed by the care provided for his wife that he has since joined the foundation’s board of directors.

“Families need to know that such an approach is available to make the ending of loved ones’ lives comfortable and dignified,” Gillenwaters said.

For those interested in learning more about Uslander’s care and treatment model, he is scheduled to give a talk from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the Solana Beach Library, 157 Stevens Ave., Solana Beach. More information can also be found on his website, integratedmdcare.com.

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