Death of the funeral

Trends in commemorating those who die are shifting away from tradition. And, as the population ages and times change, the City of Kamloops is looking at how to manage the dead


A statue of Jesus stands among the remains of loved ones in a mausoleum at the city’s Hillside Cemetery. Funerals with large gatherings are on hold amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Jessica Wallace

Dead are the days of traditional casket burials for all.

These days, a dying man’s wish may be to grow into a tree, while another may choose to be buried in a certified eco-friendly cemetery.

Last spring, Washington became the first state in the U.S. to legalize human composting.

Funerals — once a place for obligatory tears and dark clothing — are today often substituted with a “celebration of life,” complete with funny stories and laughter.

Trends in dying are shifting away from tradition. And, as the population ages and times are changing, the City of Kamloops is looking at how to manage the dead, with an update to its Cemetery Master Plan.

The plan focuses on the city’s primary cemetery, Hillside Cemetery on Notre Dame Drive.

City civic operations director Jen Fretz said the plan will address current trends as traditional casket burial declines in popularity.

More common these days is cremation, Fretz said, noting the plan will look at demand for increased mausoleum space at Hillside Cemetery. The current mausoleums, she said, are “fully subscribed.”

Schoening Funeral Service manager Sara Lawson lauded the city’s planning, telling KTW the industry is rapidly changing.

She said some people may be surprised to know that in British Columbia, 85 per cent of people are cremated after death, with 15 per cent buried in a casket.

In Kamloops, that number is slightly lower, at 80 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively.

The overall trend, however, is a rise in cremation. Lawson believes that is happening for multiple reasons, primarily a new generation and loss of tradition.

“Newer generations aren’t attending church as much as grandma and grandpa,” Lawson said. “Back in the day, that’s what you did. You had a casket burial. You had service at the church.”

Another reason cremation is increasingly popular is due to urgency for gathering that comes with casket burial and desire for options. For example, if a family cannot unite in one place for some time until after a loved one’s death, cremation might make more sense. Perhaps everyone wants to meet in a place that was meaningful to the deceased.

“It happens more and more where there is a bit of a delay for the service,” Lawson said.

In addition to mausoleum space, the city will explore trends in green burials.

The Green Burial Council describes a green burial as a way of caring for the dead with “minimal environmental impact that aids in conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health and restoration and/or preservation of habitat.”

Green burial requires non-toxic and biodegradable materials.

Lawson said only one cemetery in B.C. is certified to meet green burial standards — Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria, which opened in 2008.

According to its website, Royal Oak is the first urban green burial site in the country, where it “returns human remains to the earth in a simple state permitting decomposition to occur naturally and so contribute to new life in a forest setting.”

Green burial prepares the body without embalming.

The body is buried in a biodegradable shroud, simple container or casket made from natural fibre, wicker or sustainably harvested wood.

Lawson said the difference between regular cemeteries, such as Hillside, and a green cemetery is the grave liner. While most cemeteries have grave liners made of concrete, wood or fibreglass, green cemeteries use dirt as a way to return remains to the elements as quickly as possible.

Schoening does offer green options, but there is no green burial site in the B.C. Interior. Green burials are not yet a common request, Lawson said, but she expects it will become more in demand in the next five to 10 years.

The city will also explore the potential for a scattering garden, which is a place to scatter ashes. Lawson said scattering gardens may look like flower gardens, wherein ashes can be scattered for a fee.

Compared to scattering someone’s ashes in a backyard or elsewhere in nature, cemeteries are permanent — meaning loved ones won’t return to that special location one day to find a development in its place, a rose garden dead or a tree chopped down.

“Cemeteries stay the same,” Lawson said. “The record must remain forever.”

Updates to the Cemetery Master Plan are expected by the fall.

With need for expansion of the cemetery, rates may also be on the rise.

The city said its fees are between 20 to 25 per cent lower than similar-sized communities and the goal is to recover operating costs with revenue collected.

MODIFYING THE MEMORIAL

While funeral servcies undergo a transition, a Kamloops pastor has noticed memorials are also changing.

Rev. Steve Filyk, a minister at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, said newspaper obituaries increasingly state “no funeral by request.”

He suspects it is due to the taboo nature of death. As a culture, he said, people don’t want to acknowledge death, as it is finite.

“Perpetual youth is sort of what the focus of our culture is, right? In that way, I don’t know how well prepared we are to face it — to face the loss of loved ones or face our own death,” he said.

Filyk said he worries about the psychological impact of not marking someone’s death.

“I think to set apart and designate a time, not just for yourself but for everyone, where the world will stop for a few moments. It’s about that,” Filyk said.

“A moment of silence at Remembrance Day, where the world just stops to acknowledge that this person was special. They had warts and foibles, but they were special to a bunch of people and had an impact and that their loss is felt. I think it’s important to acknowledge that.”

Of memorials that do occur, Filyk said they rarely involve a casket and often involve photo slideshows in an increasingly media-driven, photo-centric society.

In addition, Filyk said he has noticed memorials are getting longer and are often called celebrations of life.

Regardless of whether people follow a faith tradition, Filyk said it is important to acknowledge wisdom from centuries past.

Memorials can be secular or religious, he said, noting there are unique ways to honour someone. with the better memorials providing opportunities to share stories.

“Any story often reveals something interesting about who they were and I think there’s something about telling those stories that somehow helps us heal,” Filyk said.

“Maybe because we’re all together having that similar focus.”

Complete Article HERE!

Physician Aid in Dying Used Mostly by White Patients

By Roxanne Nelson, RN, BSN

In the United States, medical aid in dying (MAID) is used mostly by white patients, even after states with more racially and ethnically diverse populations legalized the practice.

Pondering why this is the case were speakers here at the National Clinicians Conference on Medical Aid in Dying (NCCMAID) 2020 during a session on ethnic and cultural considerations in aid in dying.

Factors such as culture and religious beliefs may play a role in preventing some individuals from considering this option, but a 2019 survey from the California Health Care Foundation found that there was support for MAID among African Americans.

“When asked if race and ethnicity prevented you from getting the services and healthcare you needed, 43% of black respondents said yes, that it has happened to them,” said Thalia DeWolf, RN, CHPN, clinical coordinator, Bay Area End of Life Options, Berkeley, California.

“But when asked if they would support the right to die when terminally ill, 70% of blacks and 82% of whites said yes,” said DeWolf.

“This is surprising, since it is almost at the level of the general population, and given the unequal access to medical care and unequal outcomes, they still believe that medical aid in dying should be legal,” she continued.

“We don’t bring this up to suggest complacency, but it brings up some interesting conversation to be had,” she added.

A recent study found that in Oregon and Washington, the two states where the practice has been legal for the longest period, most patients were non-Hispanic white individuals with some level of college education (JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2:e198648.)

In 2016, MAID became legal in California, a state with a much larger and far more diverse population compared to Oregon and Washington. Even so, about 88% of people who use California’s physician-assisted death law are white, according to 2018 data from the California Department of Public Health.

Speaking to Patients

There is an overall lack of participation by black patients in all programs related to end-of-life care, noted Tracey Bush, MSW, LCSW, regional practice leader, End of Life Option Act Program, Kaiser Permanente, Southern California.

“This includes aid in dying, and we consider this lack to be a healthcare disparity,” she said.

“We would be remiss to look at the disparities and participation in these programs without thinking about the disparities in the rest of our healthcare system,” she explained. “We need to think about where the line can be drawn between education, empowerment, and recruitment,” she explained.

From a programmatic perspective, she pointed out, information, pamphlets, and staffing are designed in a way that couches the MAID decision as individualistic, but not all patients have this point of view.

“My argument is that this population doesn’t really view medical decision making in that manner,” she said. “So are we designing our materials and having conversations in a way that really speaks to these patients?”

She also emphasized the need for a diverse care team across the board with regard to ideas, perspectives, cultural beliefs, gender, and ethnicity.

Complete Article HERE!

Deciding who lives and who dies

By Dr. Morhaf Al Achkar

I could soon be the physician following a policy that determines who would be denied medical care. At the same time, I could be one of those forbidden care if I needed it.

Medical leaders in Washington state quietly debated a plan to decide who gets care when hospitals fill up. Not many details are out, but the arguments echo a similar discussion in Italy, where an intensive-care unit protocol withheld life-saving care from certain people. The rejected were those older than 80 or who had a Charlson comorbidity index of 5 or more. With my diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer, I score a 6!

When I read the news, I was morally troubled, enraged and mortified.

I am in the same boat as many colleagues who have health issues or are older and could be asked to return from retirement or work accommodation to help out. Are we asking individuals to risk their lives, but will refuse them treatment if they get sick?

I am not familiar with empirical, objective evidence to support setting a threshold for who should or should not receive care as a way to improve outcomes for a community. Research to answer such an empirical question would have been unethical to start with. Using such a strategy also misuses predictive tools.

Age or the Charlson comorbidity index can help give an estimate of prognosis. But they cannot tell us how an individual person would fare in response to treatment for COVID-19. And if we want to decide who receives care, how can we forget about functional status, quality of life, and the person’s values and preferences?

Besides, the risk of eroding people’s trust is intolerable. The last thing we want is for people to lose confidence that they will be treated fairly just because of their health conditions or age. Do we intend to make such policies available to the public, or do we keep them secret so only people with privilege will know about them?

This is not the story we want to leave for history. And who said that an order from a health authority takes the moral burden off your shoulders? Have we forgiven the doctors in Nazi Germany who experimented with vulnerable patients? We humans carry moral responsibility for our actions. If anything, blindly following an unjust order doubles the burden. Worse than doing what is unjust is not standing up to advocate for the vulnerable. What will be remembered is that we pacified our consciences with a piece of paper we called a “policy.”

We can do better.

Restricting people from accessing care is not the only strategy. We can continue to shift resources to optimize the work. For example, a generalist can lighten the load for the specialist. A well-trained practitioner can supervise a less-trained one. Since the epidemic is not hitting every U.S. city with the same intensity, sick people can be moved around.

If we think we cannot save everyone, let’s invite people to have conversations about death and dying. Patients and their primary-care doctors should discuss advanced directives. The patient can sign a do not resuscitate order. People could even embrace death with dignity if they live in a state that allows it.

I can make the choice to not live and forfeit my right to care. But that right cannot be taken from me. Age or health conditions cannot alter a person’s entitlement.

We can trust doctors’ abilities to make the right moral decision, and we can give them the authority and support in so doing. In today’s hyper-complex context, medical doctors should be competent to manage, case-by-case and situation-by-situation.

Yes, it will be a difficult time. When a decision has to be made between two lives, we regret having to make the decision, and we express our deep sadness. We should not make such unfortunate decisions a norm, and we should not write a policy to make it OK. It is not OK, and it will never be.

The healthcare system has a terrible track record of failing various marginalized groups. But we do have a good track record of providing exceptional care to people. Let’s take the opportunity to do it right this time and not miss our chance, because if the public perceives a failure on our part, their trust will take decades to regain.

Complete Article HERE!

The Cure for What Ails Us

By L. S. Dugdale

A National Hospice Foundation survey some years ago found that Americans are more inclined to discuss safe sex and drugs with their children than they are to talk with their terminally ill parents about preparing for death. Although this may sound reasonable—unsafe sex and illicit drugs pose a threat more immediate than death—the consequences of avoiding talk of human finitude have been disastrous.

As a medical doctor, I have cared for countless patients who have approached life’s end without giving it much thought. Such patients often wind up dying highly medicalized deaths. They approach their graves having exhausted limitless technologies and therapies, including those unlikely to help. They don’t die the way that most of us hope for—at home, in bed, surrounded by family. And those they love are often left reeling from the experience.

With COVID-19 upon us, the threat of mortality is very real, even for the young. Yet preparing well for death is not what occupies the news. Instead, the conversation is focused on minimizing spread, treating disease, and amassing personal protective equipment—all necessary measures to safeguard public health. But the fallacy here is that all of these efforts are mobilized in opposition to death when the reality is that many will die—from the infection, its complications, or something else. Pandemic increases the odds of dying imminently, but mortality has always been 100 percent.

So what are we to do? Of course it is prudent to avoid crowds, wash hands, and call your doctor if you’re sick. But this is the domain of prevention, of thwarting death. These are short-term actions that we hope have long-term consequences. But they offer no cure for what ultimately ails us. They do not solve the problem of our mortality, nor do they provide the tools to prepare for it.

From the late Middle Ages until about a century ago, preparation for death was part of life. In order to die well, one had to live well, and this was worked out in communities over a lifetime. It wasn’t random or subjective. Rather, it was profound and coherent. Daily life itself was interwoven with the practices, rituals, catechisms, prayers, and beliefs concerned with preparing for death. Society today may have lost some of that coherence, but religious traditions continue to offer the tools for wrestling with human finitude, if we’re willing to consider them.

Will COVID-19 change the way we think about our mortality? It should. And it could start on a personal level. Do you know anyone of retirement age or anyone with a compromised immune system? Most of us do. What sorts of conversations have you had with them about human finitude?

When I ask this, people often counter that they don’t even know how to begin. Here’s a start: “Mom, Dad, if you caught the coronavirus and became so sick that you couldn’t make your own medical decisions, who would you want to make them for you?” Although this question is intended to establish a legal health care proxy, it leads naturally into questions about life support and end-of-life wishes. You can ask for their thoughts about “breathing tubes” and mechanical ventilators and whether they would want cardiopulmonary resuscitation or “CPR” if their hearts were to stop. You can rehearse the arguments against the efficient elimination of human life, against the misleadingly-named but increasingly vocal “death with dignity” movement. You can promise your presence. You won’t abandon them.

If this sounds too medical, numerous resources exist to assist the non-clinician. The founder of the nonprofit Aging with Dignity published a document called Five Wishes based on his work with Mother Teresa’s homes for the dying. Five Wishes gently guides the reader through five domains relating to decision-making authority, end-of-life wishes, comfort-related care, treatment with regard to personal matters, and how the dying wish to be remembered.

These sorts of discussions do much to mitigate dread of an isolated death in an anonymous intensive care unit. But their real value lies in their ability to pivot the conversation to what really matters, the so-called “big questions”—questions of human existence and of ultimacy. Why am I here? What is life for? What happens when I die?

Of course philosophers, priests, and rabbis have been wrestling with these topics for millennia. And they’ve written intelligently and persuasively about how to make sense of them. The work has been done; we don’t need to recreate it. But we do need to stop ignoring it. We must start to face our finitude and rehearse for death.

COVID-19 is giving us another chance.

Complete Article HERE!

Trump Didn’t Know People Could Die From the Flu.

His Grandfather Did.

President Donald Trump’s grandfather Friedrich Trump, second from left, with his wife, Elizabeth Christ Trump; the president’s father, Fred Trump; and his siblings Elizabeth and John George Trump, in a photograph from the early 20th century.

What Frederick Trump’s death, in 1918, tells us about the costs of mismanaging a pandemic.

By

In May 1918, a German immigrant businessman, husband and father of three in Queens took his last breaths. At the time, no one really knew why he was dying.

The 49-year-old man had projected an image of robust health. A few days earlier he had been strolling down the streets of Queens with his 12-year-old son. Suddenly, he slowed his gait and told his son that he felt sick. By most accounts, he went to bed and died within 48 hours, on May 30. Years later, that son would recall the eerie scene of a parade marching down Jamaica Avenue as his father was lying dead upstairs, his devastated mother, weeping.

The man’s name was Frederick Trump, and he was the grandfather of President Donald J. Trump.

His tragic and swift end, historians say, was part of the first wave of deaths during the 1918 flu pandemic that would ultimately kill 675,000 Americans and 50 million worldwide — some 2 percent of the world’s population at the time.

The coronavirus pandemic of today is markedly different from the 1918 flu pandemic. Yet, as the world, and the United States, continues to deal with the deadly coronavirus outbreak, the death of Frederick Trump is an overlooked example of what can happen in such a mismanaged crisis.

President Trump doesn’t talk about his grandfather’s death, and he is hardly the only descendant of a victim of the 1918 pandemic who seems to be unaware of that part of his family history. Until recently, at least, the world had largely forgotten the 1918 flu pandemic, even though it took more American lives than World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. There were few novels or films chronicling the experience then, and there have been few since. Most newspapers and radio stations were slow to report on it.

“It’s really weird,” said Nancy K. Bristow, a history professor at the University of Puget Sound and the author of “American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic.” “There was a complete silencing of that narrative of trauma. It feels so tragic because people’s lives were torn apart by this.”

Among those people were the family of Frederick Trump, whose death came early in the “curve,” at a time when no one fully realized that they were in the midst of a pandemic. New York’s close living quarters, its location as a shipping center, and its position as a hub for soldiers during World War I made it an ideal cesspool for the flu’s spread, but many doctors dismissed the early cases, often thinking that they were routine ailments; it was an era when deadly disease was a more common part of life. And yet, looking back, Frederick Trump’s death was a signature of that pandemic, which not only hit both the young and the old, but also many people like him, seemingly in their prime, healthy middle years.

It hit his son Fred — Donald Trump’s father — especially hard. It was “so immediate, he couldn’t take it in,” said Gwenda Blair, an adjunct professor at Columbia University and the author of “The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President.” Ms. Blair interviewed Fred Trump about his father’s passing in 1991. She was among the few biographers to have had access to the family and to have investigated their genealogical history. “He was very matter of fact about it,” she said.

“It just didn’t seem real,” Fred Trump told her. “‘I wasn’t that upset. You know how kids are. But I got upset watching my mother crying and being so sad. It was seeing her that made me feel bad, not my own feelings about what had happened.’” (Five days after Frederick Trump’s death, his brother in law, Fred Schuster, also died, likely of the flu as well, according to Ms. Blair.)

Frederick Trump’s life and death is critical to understanding the family’s American narrative. Ms. Blair and others have reported that because Frederick Trump failed to do mandatory military service in his native Bavaria before sailing for America, his immigration to the United States may have been legally murky. It’s a complex tale, but immigration records show his employment as “none” and that he became a U.S. citizen in 1892. But Bavarian authorities eventually revoked his citizenship.

In America, Trump earned his fortune operating restaurants and hotels in Seattle’s red light district during the Klondike gold rush, peddling booze and “private rooms” for women (common shorthand for prostitution at the time). He also purchased real estate in the John D. Rockefeller-backed mining town of Monte Cristo, Wash., and later in Queens, where he settled with his German wife, Elizabeth, and their three children. Like his son and grandson, he also engaged in questionable schemes to build his businesses, including staking a bogus mineral claim on property in Washington and building a hotel on property to which he had no legal right.

Frederick Trump was the only member of the family before his grandson to have been elected to public office, Ms. Blair notes: He was elected justice of the peace in Monte Cristo, 32 votes to five for his opponent. When anti-German sentiment swelled during World War II, the Trump family history switched from one rooted in Germany to one rooted in Sweden, a false claim that Donald Trump has repeated, including in his book “The Art of the Deal.”

By the time of his death, Frederick Trump’s various exploits had made him a relatively wealthy man, yet his loss, like the loss of many others in the pandemic, was devastating for his family. Still, they were relatively well-off; the money and real estate holdings that he left behind started the E. Trump & Son company, which would later fold into the Trump Organization.

The winter following Frederick Trump’s death, deaths from the flu pandemic exploded. Public health resources were already strained by World War I, so not much was done to combat it. “Little was done those first two thirds of the pandemic,” said James Harris, a lecturer at Ohio State University who studies medical history and pandemics. “There was the wartime context, pushback to social distancing, people moving around the globe on a massive scale.”

Since then, the world has benefited from better understanding the need for social distancing and quarantining, the rise of antibiotics and vaccinations, and improved hygiene. “An important lesson we can learn is to be proactive,” Professor Harris said.

In her numerous interviews with Donald Trump, Ms. Blair said, he “showed zero interest in history.” That included the story of his grandfather’s life and death, and the impact it had on his father and relatives at the time. “There was no rear view mirror,” she said.

Among his many comments on the ongoing coronavirus crisis, in Atlanta on March 6, Donald Trump, more than a century after his grandfather’s passing, commented on the current state of flu deaths, an estimated 36,000 annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Does anybody die from the flu?” the president said. “I didn’t know people died from the flu.”

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Grieving the Death of a Pet

Emotions are very real as pet owners come to terms with a difficult loss

By Chris Haws

At the pet loss support groups I conduct at the VCA Southpaws Veterinary Center in Fairfax, Va., I often hear from attendees that they encounter sentiments like this as they grieve a beloved animal companion: “He was only a dog, it’s not as if a real person died.” “You knew the day would come, cats don’t live forever.” “You can always get another pet — move on.”

Generally, such insensitive and unhelpful statements are made by people who have not known the unique, enriching and profound nature of the relationship we have with our pets.

They just don’t get it,” said Jennifer, the grieving owner of a Miniature Schnauzer.

And that’s their misfortune,” added Alice, her neighbor at the table and a former cat owner.

The Burden of Disenfranchised Grief

They were both right, and in more ways than you might at first imagine.

Numerous studies have shown that people enjoy a wide range of positive emotional benefits from their pets; the Comfort from Companion Animals Scale (CCAS) lists over a dozen, including companionship, pleasure, play, laughter, constancy, something to love, comfort, feeling loved, responsibility, feeling needed, trust, safety and exercise. Pet owners also tend to live longer than non-pet owners and report fewer visits to physicians, psychiatrists and therapists.

So why the disconnect when a person is grieving over the loss of a pet? Part of the answer lies in the fact that society at large doesn’t always cope very well with certain types of grief.  People aren’t sure what to say or how to behave. Death is never a comfortable topic, but when that death involves “socially delicate” circumstances such as suicide, drug overdose or any other loss that cannot be easily acknowledged, or publicly mourned, it can provoke what is described as “disenfranchised grief”.

And that’s what can occur when someone loses a pet.

Lizzy, the owner of Petra (a recently euthanized 13-year-old Boxer/Bloodhound mix), is a busy wife and mother who works full-time. Of her family, and her grief, she remarked: “They don’t want me to cry in front of them, and no one will talk about my pain.”

It’s a sentiment that is frequently expressed: “I can’t stop crying. My husband gets angry with me. I know he’s sad too, but he just won’t show it,” noted Alice, grieving the loss of the couple’s treasured cat.

And, of course, the additional, unwelcome experience of disenfranchisement only makes an already sad situation worse, as Jennifer observed: Everybody has moved on like it was just yesterday’s news. I’m not expecting everybody to feel as I do, but to be so utterly deserted has been tough. I was literally told that I would just have to get over it. Just take twelve and a half years and move on … sure, I’ll get right on that.”

A Painful Loss After a Pet Is Gone

The point is that pet loss generates a degree of grief that can be every bit as acute as human loss. Some go even further. “These have been the worst days of my life. For me, this is worse than losing people,” wrote Karen, a grieving Pomeranian owner.

She is not alone. Many of the attendees at my pet loss support group sessions have expressed the same view. Grief from pet loss hurts. A lot.

Grief from pet loss is also an equal opportunity emotion. Our session attendees have included high ranking military officers, diplomats, corporate executives and professional artists. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. There are a lot of us pet owners around.

Sixty-seven percent of all U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. Some 73 % of those families own one or more dogs (89.7 million) and 49% own one or more cats (94.2 million).

And the sad — and significant — fact is that no pet lives forever. The mean age of death for dogs of all breeds is just over 11 years; curiously, the larger breeds die much younger than the small breeds, and scientists aren’t quite sure why. For house cats, the mean age at death is just over 15 years.

Pet ownership is almost certain to lead to loss, at some point in time. Most of us understand that reality, although we don’t like to dwell too much on it.

The relatively short lifespan of a pet also brings its own unique challenge. The relationship that we have with our animal companions is beyond special — a two-way dependency that is based on an unspoken agreement that we will care for each other with no questions asked. But at the end of a pet’s life, that understanding can be tested in a way that has yet to present itself in the realm of human mortality: euthanasia.

A large animal hospital such as VCA South Paws “puts down” over 20 animals a week, but only after extensive veterinary medical review and never without the full agreement and participation of the owner. Nevertheless, many of the attendees at the pet loss support sessions are still wracked with guilt about the decision they made to end their companion’s life. Might he have recovered? What else could have been done for her? Had they been too hasty?

If it’s any consolation, in every case I’ve encountered, not only had the time truly come to end the animal’s pain or suffering, but in many cases the creature seemed ready and willing to stop battling on as well.

“He was ready to go,” observed Sue, the owner of a Chocolate Labrador. She was suffering and I needed to help my best friend,” remembers Lizzy, the Boxer/Bloodhound owner.There was nothing more anyone could do agreed John, the heartbroken owner of a fourteen-year-old Yorkie.

Grieving in a Safe Space

That unfamiliar blend of resignation, relief and heartache is a difficult one to process and it takes a while for people to reconcile all those internal conflicts. That’s where grief support groups can play an important role. It really helps someone who is bursting with questions and doubts, on top of their inevitable grief, to hear others express similar feelings and emotions.

As one newcomer to the group remarked:I was astonished to hear her talk about the same feelings I have and the same behaviors I’m doing. Someone I’ve never met, not in my age group, probably with a completely different life than mine, doing the same things and feeling the exact same way as myself.”

Another fellow griever agreed: I was surprised that my reaction is normal. It’s nice to speak to others that recognize those dark moments.”

As you might imagine, there is a lot of sympathetic nodding and wry smiles of recognition at these meetings. We also go through a lot of tissues. And that’s perfectly OK, too.

Like any grief counseling session, the participants are encouraged to talk openly about their feelings and express whatever emotion overwhelms them. Pet loss support groups are resolutely safe places … places where nobody is allowed to feel disenfranchised.

And there’s also a lot of laughter, as we hear about how Stan the cat defended his place on the family couch or how Petra the dog had a habit of herding the young children towards the meal table at supper time. These are precious memories, shared with people who understand.

Complete Article HERE!

Why You Should Request an Extra Layer of Support When Living with a Serious Illness

By Andrew Esch, MD

Did you know that most large hospitals in the U.S. have a specialized medical team that uniquely cares for people living with serious illnesses? If you or a loved one has any type of cancer, heart or kidney disease, dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, or any other serious illness, you should know about this extra layer of medical support. It’s called palliative care and focuses on relieving symptoms and stress that so often come with these kinds of illnesses.

The goal of palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.

Experts in Symptom Management, Care Coordination and More

Your palliative care team has expert training in managing symptoms and treatment side effects. Palliative care teams help patients and families in many ways, like avoiding unwanted and unnecessary trips to the hospital.

In addition, they will make sure you have the support you need to make informed decisions about your care. Having a serious illness often means having many doctors. Your palliative care team will make sure that you, your family, and your doctors are all on the same page. They will take the time to get to know you, help you plan goals for your treatment, and coordinate with your other doctors to match your treatment options to your goals.

Palliative Care is Available in Many Settings and Most Hospitals

As of 2019, more than 70% of hospitals (with 50 or more beds) in the U.S. have a palliative care team to help people living with a serious illness. And when people receive palliative care during hospital stays, they spend fewer days in the intensive care unit, have less pain, and are happier with the care that they receive. They may also be less likely to end up back in the hospital. Palliative care is also becoming more available outside of the hospital, in clinics and at home.

What This Means for You

If you or a family member are living with a serious illness, ask your doctor for a palliative care referral as early as possible. To find out which hospitals or clinics provide palliative care where you live, search this Palliative Care Provider Directory.

To learn more about palliative care, visit GetPalliativeCare.org, an online resource with clear, comprehensive palliative care information for people living with a serious illness. The site is provided by the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC).

Complete Article HERE!