End-of-Life Care: Working Within the Laws of Nature

Denise
sunset-546370_640This is hard to hear, but important to know: During caregiving, you are helping a family member die well.

The process of helping someone to die well begins early on in your caregiving journey. It begins when you first hear a diagnosis. Or, when you first notice that your mother just isn't able to keep up the house as well as she used to. Or, when you celebrate your grandmother's 95th birthday and wonder: Where did the time go?.

Early on in your caregiving journey, you were proactive in your efforts---finding the best doctor, uncovering the best treatment option, and providing the best care, such as nutritious meals, helpful home health aides, appropriate social stimulation. Your efforts worked. For awhile. But, then the laws of nature took over, causing further frailty, greater declines.

Once the laws of nature became too much, you looked to achieve the status quo---holding on to what's left for as long as possible. You encouraged your mother to continue folding laundry, singing show tunes, reading the Bible.

But, then the laws of nature take over again and the status quo keeps moving down a notch. Your mom likes to watch you fold the laundry; she likes to listen to show tunes on tape but can no longer vocalize the words; she wants your husband to read from the Bible.

This is how you give a good death.

And, when the laws of nature really begin to win, you wind down, together. You sit together, no words. You allow longer and longer periods of rest. You give in to the clock.

But, this is when you become proactive again. You're setting the stage for the last hours, putting into your motion your careet's last wishes.

You prepare your house--you keep fresh flowers, you buy your mother's favorite CD, you ask your husband to polish up his rendition of your mother's favorite tune on the piano. You prepare the relatives and friends, inviting, encouraging visits. You prepare yourself, sharing with your caree your favorite memories, saying the words that have been left unsaid for too long. And, you prepare your caree, allowing her to gain strength for her last trip.

You celebrate life as you join forces to complete your last, and most important, work. And, you do it well, as you've done throughout your caregiving journey.

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