SENIORS: PREPARING TO SAY GOOD BYE

Dec 20th, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Hospice and Palliative Care

The delivery of an oxygen tank, a walker and a hospital bed usually portends the coming of the end.  It is often the sign of a battle well fought, but that energy and stamina are more and more depleted.  The heart plays out.  The disease takes control.  The will to fight fades.  The body has endured.  And, now to make it day by day, certain aids and assistance are required.

Hospice, whether at home or in a specially equipped care center, is a word of comfort, but also of finality and sadness.  It offers the presence of professional skills and sensitivities that have been  honed to offer palliative care, necessary and appropriate measures to keep the dying loved one comfortable. It also gives support to family and friends who are going through the experience of imminent loss.

There is little joy in going through such a time.  One consolation is in doing all possible to keep the patient comfortable, to reduce pain, to encourage and supplement the presence of care and compassion. To be sure, it is a journey fraught with hurt and sadness.  It is a time for testing and recognizing reality.  Time is becoming shorter now.  Taking advantage, as much as can be allowed, of whatever time remains means saying what needs to be said.  Hopefully, much of this conversation has already taken place.

There is also the need to say the unspoken.  This is the time for holding a hand, sitting at bedside, listening as breathing becomes more and more shallow. This is a time to just be there.

Recognize the Reality of Death

While some yearn for a miracle, a worthy grasp for something to intervene, it is that time when the miracle of love does the most work. Vain and scientific interventions are likely for our sake rather than that of the one who is bed bound.

Coming to the time of reality, while difficult to do, prompts those nearby to be honest with themselves and respectful of the dying.  Hanging on may have the superficial appearance of being loving, but it is often self centered and lacking in genuine caring.  Letting the loved one go is a necessary exercise.  Letting the loved one know that you are ready when he/she is ready is your part in the struggle.

There is a multiplied sadness that death frequently occurs near the end of the year, around those holidays that mean so much.  But come it does.  The loved one has often resolved, internally, to hang on.  However, resources for doing so often are depleted and surviving becomes less and less an option.

Each of us would like to choose how and when we may die.  That, however, is also an unrealistic expectation.   Recognizing it is  coming, it is inevitable and it will likely set its own terms is a healthy means for having a mature understanding of death.  Grieving is a healing exercise which allows us to overcome the painful loss that is to come and finally does.

Being ready to say good bye is a part of the process of dying. Demonstrating your own ability to do so, even with tears flooding your eyes and running  down your cheeks will enable you to do what has to be done: Say goodbye with grace and dignity.



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