Dying isn’t as bad as you think

The thought of death makes many of us feel frightened, so we barely talk about it. But dying is far gentler than Hollywood would lead us to believe.

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Here’s a delicate truth: we’re all approaching the ends of our lives. Every day counts us down, it’s just that most of us rarely talk, or even think, about it. And when we do, we feel scared of pain and panic and feeling out of control; afraid of sadness and saying goodbye; worried about deaths we’ve seen on TV or in films.

I’ve worked in palliative medicine for over 30 years, helping to improve the conditions of those nearing the ends of their lives. I’ve sat by the bedsides of scores of dying people and it’s taught me a lot about the realities – and misconceptions – of death.

More than half a million people die in the UK each year and almost all of them from a condition that gives at least some warning that death is approaching. If you knew you had limited time left to live, what would you want to do? Who would you want to be with? Are you keen on hospitals? Could your home be suitable? What’s your opinion about being kept alive on a ventilator, even if you’re unlikely ever to regain consciousness? How much treatment is too much? Are you an organ donor?

Here is some good news: death is almost certainly not going to be as bad as you think. Just like birth, death follows a predictable pattern. Initially, illness reduces people’s energy levels. The mechanisms are complex, but the outcome is that they need more sleep. Naps help, but energy is quickly used up, and another snooze is required.

 

At the end of life, there’s an exhalation that just doesn’t get followed by an inhalation. As simple and gentle as that.

As time goes by, those naps last longer and change in character. Although the person doesn’t notice any difference, they dip into unconsciousness for a while, so we’re temporarily unable to wake them. At this point, it’s time to switch any symptom-managing medications to a subcutaneous route like a syringe pump, to stop any symptoms from coming back if we cannot rouse the patient when their medicines are due.

If their illness isn’t affecting their thinking, then a dying person will still appreciate their family and friends when they’re awake, the occasional sip of fluid, perhaps a spoonful of something tasty, although people rarely have much appetite. They may stay in bed. They may appreciate peace and quiet, or their favourite music (I’d prefer BBC Radio 4, by the way). The periods of unconsciousness get longer and, eventually, the dying person is simply unconscious all of the time.

We can change evolution © Scott Balmer

Now, the next change begins: in deep unconsciousness, breathing is driven by the only part of the brain still functioning. This produces an automatic breathing pattern that cycles between deep, sometimes noisy breathing and very shallow breathing. The rate also alternates between fast and slow; there can be gaps that are several seconds long. Saliva may gather in the throat, causing air to bubble through the fluid, which makes a rasping or rattling noise. These noises are a sign of deep unconsciousness, not of distress.

At the end of life, during a phase of slow, shallow breathing, there’s an exhalation that just doesn’t get followed by an inhalation. As simple and gentle as that. Sometimes so gentle that the family around the bed doesn’t notice. No pain or panic; no sense of loss of control. This is what the vast majority of people experience.

By knowing this gentle pattern, dying people can make choices about where and how to be cared for. Their families are often asked to report dying people’s wishes. Do you know the answers? Does your family know yours?

Complete Article HERE!

What Is Thanatophobia?

Understanding prolonged, excessive fear of death

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Thanatophobia is a persistent and irrational fear of death or dying. The fear may focus on your own death or the death of a loved one. In extreme cases, these thoughts may be so terrifying that you end up isolating yourself completely, avoiding leaving the house in case something terrible happens.

In the Greek language, the word “Thanatos” refers to death and “phobos” means fear. Thus, thanatophobia translates to the fear of death.

Many of us will feel scared of death and dying at some point in our lives. If you have a phobia of death or dying that is persistent and longstanding, causes you distress or anxiety, and is so extreme that it interferes with your daily life, you may be suffering from thanatophobia.

This article takes a close look at thanatophobia, or death anxiety, to explore the symptoms, causes, and treatments for this phobia.

While thanatophobia is not specifically listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), there are symptoms of a specific phobia that could be applied in assessing whether someone has a typical fear of death or something more.

  • Unreasonable, excessive fear:The person exhibits excessive or unreasonable, persistent, and intense fear triggered by a specific object or situation.
  • Avoidance of situations in which thinking about death or dying may be necessary: In severe cases, this can lead to the person avoiding leaving home altogether.
  • Life-limiting:The phobia significantly impacts the individual’s work, school, or personal life.
  • Duration:The duration of symptoms must last for at least six months.

The panic you experience with thanatophobia is often attributed to general anxiety, which could produce the following physical symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Racing heart
  • Nausea
  • Headache

Death Anxiety in Children

A child’s fear of death may be a healthy part of normal development. Children generally lack the defense mechanisms and understanding of death that help adults cope. Whether the fear qualifies as a phobia depends on its severity and the length of time it has been present.

Diagnosis

Thanatophobia isn’t a clinically recognized condition, so there is no specific test healthcare providers can use to diagnose this phobia. But a list of your symptoms, the length of time you’ve been experiencing the fears, and their severity will give healthcare providers a greater understanding of what’s going on.

It is important that thanatophobia is diagnosed by a trained mental health professional. They will try to determine whether the fear is part of a specific phobia, an anxiety condition, or a related mental health disorder

Thanatophobia may be linked to:

  • Specific phobias: Death anxiety is associated with a range of specific phobias. The most common objects of phobias are things that can cause harm or death, including flying, heights, animals, and blood.
  • Panic disorders: During a panic attack, people may feel a fear of dying or impending doom.
  • Illness anxiety disorders: Death anxiety may be linked to illness anxiety disorders, once known as hypochondriasis. Here, a person has intense fear associated with becoming ill and excessively worries about their health.

A 2019 study linked death anxiety to more severe symptoms across 12 different mental disorders.

Causes

The exact cause of thanatophobia is unclear. However, the condition is a specific phobia with a focus on previous experiences with death.

Some of the risk factors that expose people to a higher risk of thanatophobia include:

  • Age: Studies found death anxiety peaked in people during their 20s and declined significantly thereafter.
  • Sex: Although men and women both experience death anxiety, women experience a secondary spike of thanatophobia in their 50s.
  • Parents nearing the end of life: Children of elderly or sick parents are more likely to fear death. They’re also more likely to say their parents are afraid of dying because of their own feelings.
  • Personality and temperamental factors like being prone to anxiety may increase your risk of death anxiety.
  • Personal health: People with chronic illnesses are more at risk of developing an extreme fear of death.
  • Traumatic event: Those who have experienced death-related, traumatic events are more likely to develop death anxiety.

Prevention

Medical literature on death anxiety is limited and often conflicting, but one study found that fear of death is uncommon in people with:

  • High self-esteem
  • Religious beliefs
  • Good health
  • A sense of fulfillment in life
  • Intimacy with family and friends
  • A fighting spirit

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you receive treatment for an anxiety disorder, phobia, or for a specific underlying cause of your fear of death.

Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for many anxiety conditions and for symptoms of thanatophobia. During a course of CBT, you and your therapist will work together to determine the cause of your anxiety and focus on creating practical solutions to problems.

The goal is to eventually change your pattern of thinking and put your mind at ease when you face talk of death or dying.

Medication

Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to reduce anxiety and feelings of panic that are common with phobias. Medication is rarely a long-term solution, however. It may be used for a short period of time in combination with therapy.

Coping

Social networks and support groups may help you to deal with death anxiety. Some people may come to terms with feelings of death through religious beliefs, though for some, religion increases feelings of death anxiety.

Self-help techniques include activities that help you feel calmer and more relaxed, such as breathing exercises and guided meditations, as well as other activities that help you improve your overall mental health, such as eating a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise.

They may not help you overcome your fears in the long term but can help you to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety you are experiencing and feel better able to cope.

Frequently Asked Questions

How common is thanatophobia?

Everyone will experience a fear of dying at some point in their lives. If you find yourself worrying about death a lot, the first thing to do is to remind yourself that you’re not alone. But if this fear is persistent and is impacting your daily life, seek medical help.

Death anxiety peaks for people in their 20s and seems to get better with age.

Why can’t I stop thinking about death?

Anyone can experience obsessive thoughts about death or dying, and unfortunately they can worsen when a triggering situation arises or can even appear suddenly. While there are many strategies you can try on your own, if you continue to experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts about death, it’s best to reach out to a mental health professional for help.

How do I talk to someone about my fear of dying?

It can be daunting to seek help for death anxiety, but asking for help and learning how to handle these fears in a healthy way can help you manage your condition. It can also keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

A therapist will work with you to examine your thoughts and behaviors and improve how you feel. Your therapist will also give you the tools to help you open up to loved ones about your fears.

Is necrophobia the same as thanatophobia?

Necrophobia is different from thanatophobia. Necrophobia refers to an intense, often irrational, fear people exhibit when confronted with dead “things,” such as the remains of a deceased human being or an animal, or an object typically associated with death, such as a casket, cemetery, funeral home, or tombstone.

A Word From Verywell

Worrying about your own death, or the death of a loved one, is normal but can be distressing and concerning when the feelings linger. If the worry turns to panic or feels too extreme to handle on your own, seek help.

If your worries about death are related to a recent diagnosis or the illness of a friend or family member, talking with someone can be helpful.

Complete Article HERE!

Death-friendly communities ease fear of aging and dying


Improving death-friendliness offers further opportunity to improve social inclusion. A death-friendly approach could lay the groundwork for people to stop fearing getting old or alienating those who have.

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Death looms larger than usual during a global pandemic. An age-friendly community works to make sure people are connected, healthy and active throughout their lives, but it doesn’t pay as much attention to the end of life.

What might a death-friendly community ensure?

In today’s context, the suggestion to become friendly with death may sound strange. But as scholars doing research on age-friendly communities, we wonder what it would mean for a community to be friendly towards death, dying, grief and bereavement.

There’s a lot we can learn from the palliative care movement: it considers death as meaningful and dying as a stage of life to be valued, supported and lived. Welcoming mortality might actually help us live better lives and support communities — rather than relying on medical systems — to care for people at the end of their lives.

 

The medicalization of death

Until the 1950s, most Canadians died in their homes. More recently, death has moved to hospitals, hospices, long-term care homes or other health-care institutions.

The societal implications of this shift are profound: fewer people witness death. The dying process has become less familiar and more frightening because we don’t get a chance to be part of it, until we face our own.

Fear of death, of aging and social inclusion

In western cultures, death is often associated with aging, and vice versa. And a fear of death contributes to a fear of aging. One study found that psychology students with death-anxiety were less willing to work with older adults in their practice. Another study found that worries about death and aging led to ageism. In other words, younger adults push older adults away because they don’t want to think about death.

A clear example of ageism being borne out of a fear of death can be seen through COVID-19; the disease gained the nickname “boomer remover” because it seemed to link aging with death.

Grandparents with masks seen pressing hands against window looking at granddaughter

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) framework for age-friendly communities includes “respect and social inclusion” as one of its eight focuses. The movement fights ageism via educational efforts and intergenerational activities.

Improving death-friendliness offers further opportunities to improve social inclusion. A death-friendly approach could lay the groundwork for people to stop fearing getting old or alienating those who have. Greater openness about mortality also creates more space for grief.

During COVID-19, it’s become clearer than ever that grief is both personal and collective. It’s especially relevant to older adults who outlive many of their peers and experience multiple losses.

The compassionate communities approach

The compassionate communities approach came from the fields of palliative care and critical public health. It focuses on community development related to end-of-life planning, bereavement support and improved understandings about aging, dying, death, loss and care.

The age-friendly and compassionate communities initiatives share several goals, but they don’t yet share practices. We think they should.

Originating with the WHO’s concept of healthy cities, the compassionate communities charter responds to criticisms that public health has fallen short in responding to death and loss. The charter makes recommendations for addressing death and grief in schools, workplaces, trade unions, places of worship, hospices and nursing homes, museums, art galleries and municipal governments. It also accounts for diverse experiences of death and dying — for instance, for those who are unhoused, imprisoned, refugees or experiencing other forms of social marginalization.

The charter calls not only for efforts to raise awareness and improve planning, but also for accountability related to death and grief. It highlights the need to review and test a city’s initiatives (for instance, review of local policy and planning, annual emergency services roundtable, public forums, art exhibits and more). Much like the age-friendly framework, the compassionate communities charter uses a best practice framework, adaptable to any city.

Multigenerational family, walking, holding hands on the beach.

Age-friendly initiatives could converge with the work of compassionate communities in their efforts to make a community a good place to live, age and, ultimately, die.
There’s a lot to like about the compassionate communities approach.

First, it comes from the community, rather than from medicine. It brings death back from the hospitals and into the public eye. It acknowledges that when one person dies, it affects a community. And it offers space and outlets for bereavement.

Second, the compassionate communities approach makes death a normal part of life whether by connecting school children with hospices, integrating end-of-life discussions into workplaces, providing bereavement supports or creating opportunities for creative expression about grief and mortality. This can demystify the dying process and lead to more productive conversations about death and grief.

Third, this approach acknowledges diverse settings and cultural contexts for responding to death. It doesn’t tell us what death rituals or grief practices should be. Instead, it holds space for a variety of approaches and experiences.

Age-friendly compassionate communities

We propose that age-friendly initiatives could converge with the work of compassionate communities in their efforts to make a community a good place to to live, age and, ultimately, die. We envision death-friendly communities including some, or all, of the elements mentioned above. One of the benefits of death-friendly communities is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model; they can vary across jurisdictions, allowing each community to imagine and create their own approach to death-friendliness.

Those who are working to build age-friendly communities should reflect on how people prepare for death in their cities: Where do people go to die? Where and how do people grieve? To what extent, and in which ways, does a community prepare for death and bereavement?

If age-friendly initiatives contend with mortality, anticipate diverse end-of-life needs, and seek to understand how communities can indeed become more death-friendly, they could make even more of a difference.

That’s an idea worth exploring.

Complete Article HERE!

End-of-life care: people should have the option of general anaesthesia as they die

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Dying patients who are in pain are usually given an analgesic, such as morphine, to ease their final hours and days. And if an analgesic isn’t enough, they can be given a sedative – something to make them more relaxed and less distressed at the end of life. We have recently written about a third approach: using a general anaesthetic to ensure that the dying patient is completely unconscious. This has been described previously, but largely overlooked.

There are two situations when a general anaesthetic might be used in dying patients. The first is when other drugs have not worked and the patient is still distressed or in pain. The second is when a patient has only a short time to live and expresses a clear wish to be unconscious. Some dying patients just want to sleep.

But what type of anaesthesia are we talking about? If you need surgery or a medical procedure, there are three options. First, being fully awake, but having local anaesthesia to block the pain. Second, you could be partly sedated: you would be less stressed or worried about it, but you might remember some of the procedure afterwards. Finally, you could have a general anaesthetic and be out cold, with no memory of the procedure afterwards.

Any of these might be appropriate, depending on the procedure and depending on the person. But the option with the highest chance that you won’t feel anything is, of course, general anaesthesia.

These same three options could be offered to a dying patient. Some people might want to be as awake as possible. (Like the poet Dylan Thomas, they might not wish to “go gentle into that good night”.) Some might want to be sedated, if necessary. Others might want to be completely asleep.

The choice of general anaesthesia at the end of life is potentially popular. Last year, we surveyed more than 500 people in the UK about end-of-life options. Nearly 90% said they would like the option of a general anaesthetic if they were dying.

You might wonder, is this not just euthanasia by another name? Giving someone medicines to ensure that they are unconscious as they die naturally is different from giving someone medicine to end their life. General anaesthesia is legal, whereas in many countries, including the UK, euthanasia is illegal. This means that the option of anaesthesia could be available now for dying patients in the UK without changing the law. France has recently recognised the right for dying patients to be unconscious.

Wouldn’t it be too risky?

There are side-effects with all medicines, but recent advances mean that it is possible to give anaesthetic medicines to patients close to death without affecting their breathing. The medicine is given slowly, and the patient made unconscious gradually over 15 to 20 minutes. The medicine can be slowed or stopped at any point.

Tray of anaesthetic drugs.
Tray of anaesthetic drugs.

Previous studies that have used anaesthesia at the end of life, have continued the medicines for one to 14 days until the patient died naturally.

This will not be for everyone. It may not be possible for those who are dying in their own home. And some people will not want it. But we have the means to offer dying patients a gentle alternative end to their days. We believe that there is a strong ethical case to make the option of general anaesthesia at the end of life more widely available.

Complete Article HERE!

Does Marijuana Have A Place In Hospice?

Marijuana is used in hospice care to ease spiritual and existential suffering, with some studies showing an important therapeutic role for patients faced with the despair of a terminal illness.

BY Kate-Madonna Hindes

As Americans continue to age, hospices are exploring new ways to bring peace and calm to the often slow and painful process of end-of-life care. According to the CDC, in 2015, an estimated 1.4 million individuals on Medicare were patients in a hospice setting.

Quadrupling in size in the last 20 years, hospices are investing in creating a patient-centric approach that dismantles beliefs that hospices are cold, and unfeeling institutions. From massage to aromatherapy, some hospices are offering new additions to their programs including music and integrating family into meaningful experiences. While many hospices are focused on offering a thoughtful quality of care, many end-of-life-care specialists are also advocating for marijuana.

A MorseLife Hospice and Palliative Care study focused on advances in hospice care found changing attitudes on medical marijuana. They cited that, “87% of Americans support the use of medical marijuana as a treatment option for terminally ill patients, with nearly three in five Americans (58%) expressing strong support.”

The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine recently shared a video on how hospices can integrate medical marijuana into care, heralding more change in the market to accepting marijuana as a part of a patient’s care plan.

Pathways Home Health advocates for marijuana in hospice care, stating:

“Marijuana is used in the hospice care setting to ease spiritual and existential suffering, with some studies showing an important therapeutic role for patients faced with the despair of a terminal illness, as well as the loss of function that accompanies it. A mild euphoria or sense of well-being can ease a patient’s mind, body and spirit as they come to terms with their fate.”

Not Telling Your Doctor About Marijuana Use Can Hurt You

Stuck in political limbo

While some hospice programs are embracing medical cannabis, some are facing uncertainty about whether or not to allow medical marijuana, even when it’s legal inside their particular state. With an ever-expanding list of states that allow marijuana both medically and recreationally, hospices are taking an evidence-based, risk-management-forward approach to ensure they comply legally and ethically.

Changing attitudes are allowing for researchers to gain more insight and information regarding the role cannabis and CBD can both play in hospice and palliative care settings. Published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, an October 2019 study focused on the responses of over 300 palliative care professionals from over 40 states on the use of medical cannabis. The study found “overwhelming support” for the use of medical cannabis in a hospice setting:

Regardless of legal status, hospice staff members were overwhelmingly in agreement that MC (medical cannabis) is appropriate for hospice patients to have access to and use.

Citing barriers such as legal status, clinical safety, and societal influence, the study believes opportunities exist to better support hospice providers and patients with education, research and policies that elevate the use of medical cannabis.

With new patients entering hospice every day and both clinicians and doctors looking to supplement old pain medicines with newer more effective treatments, marijuana will remain a top topic for years to come.

Complete Article HERE!

Facing Terminal Cancer

Support helps families come to terms with looming loss

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Last April, Rogers Park resident Aisha Luster got the biggest shock of her life when she learned that her father was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer. “He didn’t tell me or my older sister,” says Luster, 37. “We were crushed. We felt left in the dark. It was devastating.”

Within two months of sharing the gut-wrenching news, Luster’s father died. “He spent the last week of his life in a hospital alone due to Covid,” Luster recalls. “That was one of the worst days of my life. I never knew I would lose him. I have definitely been affected mentally, physically, and emotionally. It still feels like a bad dream I can’t get out of.”

Luster’s father was one of an estimated 606,520 Americans who died of cancer in 2020. Grief, depression, panic, and anxiety — for both the individual and their family — are common when dealing with terminal cancer.

Facing imminent loss is not easy. Yet, end-of-life support from palliative care services, such as hospice care, can help patients and their loved ones cope with these emotions and prepare them for what to expect.

End-of-life discussions

Talking to family members about their wishes can help make choices easier for caregivers.

“Families are under an enormous amount of stress, especially if the medical problem came suddenly and they didn’t have any opportunity to talk to the patient or to anticipate the problems,” says sociologist Susan P. Shapiro, a research professor at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago and author of Speaking for the Dying: Life-and-Death Decisions in Intensive Care.

To watch their body breaking down before your very eyes definitely had a huge impact on me.”

End-of-life discussions establish transparency and prevent misinterpretations of the individual’s final wishes, she says. “When patients never spoke to family members in advance about what they wanted, family members were very, very torn about what they should do.”

For those living with terminal cancer, coming face-to-face with their looming mortality can be painful.

Between 15% and 50% of cancer patients experience depressive symptoms, according to a review article in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. Depression in cancer patients contributes to physical and psychological problems, it says. And depression may be associated with higher death rates.

Christine Schwartz-Peterson, MD, is a hospice medical director at JourneyCare, a hospice and palliative care agency that’s headquartered in Glenview and serves 13 counties in Illinois. Part of her role involves caring for terminally ill patients who experience depression or anxiety.

“Our patients and their loved ones are going through tremendous loss while on service with us,” Schwartz-Peterson says. “Our skilled hospice teams, which include social workers and chaplains, are trained to recognize this pain and help support them throughout this difficult time.”

Social workers provide resources such as emotional support, counseling for patients and caregivers, and funeral planning that reflects the patient’s final wishes. Chaplains, tasked with easing spiritual healing through physical and emotional pain, aid patients and families with some comfort in spite of illness.

Relying on such services helped Lombard resident Melissa Schmitz.

In 2016, when she was 44, her father was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“There’s really no way to prepare for that. To watch the person you love, who has always taken care of you your whole life, to watch their body breaking down before your very eyes definitely had a huge impact on me,” Schmitz says. “But there was nothing I could do to actually fix it or help it, and that was devastating for me.”

Ultimately, palliative care, which supports patients and their families, enabled her to reach peace with the end-of-life process. As her father’s cancer progressed in the last weeks of his life, the Schmitz family decided to move him to hospice care. 

With the help of hospice physicians and social workers, Schmitz was able to provide her father with individualized end-of-life care. “I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t want him to be in a hospital room, and he didn’t want to be in a hospital room,” she says. They all achieved a measure of peace. “JourneyCare allowed me to basically move in for the last couple of weeks. I never had to miss a minute with him. And that was wonderful.”

Supporting the overlooked

It’s important to support the mental health of family caregivers as well as patients, says Dana Delach, MD, a JourneyCare physician specializing in hospice and palliative medicine. Caregivers, who are often physically and mentally exhausted, can be overlooked when someone is dying.

Friends and family can step in to listen, care, and offer support. “If you know someone who is a caregiver, it is important to ask how you can help,” Delach says. “Sometimes the best gift you can give a caregiver is the gift of being present. Truly present. Sit with them while they provide care. Be a person to listen as they express their myriad emotions.”

Like Luster and Schmitz, Lincoln Park resident Simone Malcolm understands the signifi-cance of addressing family mental health during this difficult time.

In 2010, Malcolm’s mother revealed to her that she had breast cancer. At the time Malcolm was 20 years old. “When my mother first told me of her diagnosis, I was devastated because I thought I was going to lose my mom. I was scared, and because of that, I wasn’t there for her as I should have been,” Malcolm says. “I put a lot of my focus on school, my friendships, and hanging out. I acted as if everything was normal and I didn’t have a sick parent.”

Complicating matters for Malcolm’s mother was that she was initially misdiagnosed. By the time she was properly diagnosed, the cancer had reached stage 3. “My mother was hopeful that she would beat the disease,” Malcolm recalls. “Because of this, we did not speak about what would happen if she was to become incapacitated.” Her mother passed away later that year.

Drawing from her experience, Malcolm offers recommendations for those facing the same situation she did a decade ago. It’s important to be present for loved ones and involved in their care, she says.

“The advice I would give is to make sure the family stays on top of doctor’s visits and make sure they ask a bunch of questions so they are informed,” she says. “Also, be there for your loved one. They need all the support and love.”

Complete Article HERE!

This empathic website helps you think and talk about death

Death is all around us this year. We need tools to help.

By Mark Wilson

It’s been a year of loss. But even seeing the devastation of COVID-19 hasn’t made it any easier to talk about death—and specifically, the possibility of our own deaths and deaths of those we love. Of course, ignoring death doesn’t make its inevitability any less real, during this year or any other.

Life Support is a new website from the London creative studio The Liminal Space, funded by the U.K. government. It’s a resource that proclaims, “Talking about dying won’t make it happen.” And with that premise as a baseline, it lets you explore topics about death and dying from the perspectives of experts, like palliative care doctors and social workers.

The design appears nebulous at first glance, with words floating in hand-drawn bubbles, which pulsate like the rhythm of your own breathing. But looks can be deceiving. What’s really lurking inside this casual space is a sharp curriculum built to answer your lingering questions about death.

As you scroll through the interface, the site offers several potential paths of thought that are probably familiar to most of us, like, “I’m scared to have a painful death” and “I don’t know if I should talk to my child about death.” When you find a question to explore, you swipe for more. That’s when experts come in. Some of their answers appear in blocks of text. Others are actually recorded, with audio you can play back. You might think the audio is a gimmick or unnecessary panache. In fact, I found it quite affecting to hear a doctor offering her own thoughts and advice about death aloud; it creates a level of intimacy that printed words can’t quite capture.

Ten or 20 years ago, a resource like this might have been a pamphlet (and indeed, anyone who frequents hospitals knows that pamphlets are still a mainstay to educate patients on topics of all types). But Life Support makes a convincing argument for how giving someone a bit of agency—like choosing our own questions to be answered, or hearing from doctors with our own ears when we’d like to—makes the information easier to digest.

I doubt there’s any quick resource out there that will ever get people completely comfortable talking or thinking about their own mortality. Religion and the arts have already attempted to tackle this topic for millennia. But Life Support is a solid attempt to ease us into the conversation.

Complete Article HERE!