living your best to the end

BestEndings Chat: end-of-life discussion video’d

Inaugural BestEndings Chat topic: Why is it so hard to talk about dying.   Insights, Revelations. Confessions and Spirited Debate amongst 6 friends from diverse backgrounds. Together, we represented Hindu, Athiest, Christian, North American Catholic, Mexican Catholic and Muslim. Left to right: Mike, Sudhir, Ruth, Kathy, Colleen, Gina, Majid Mike Houlahan, Healthcare Executive; Sudhir and Ruth Handa, Businessman, Colleen Young, plain language writer and founder of Canada’s national tweet chat for healthcare and social media: #hcsmca, Gina Camacho Ibarra and Majid web developers, BestEndings. The video will be uploaded soon, but in advance – a taste of what’s to come (funny bits saved for the video) Mike: I’m involved in healthcare, I’m engaged with BestEndings and still – when my father had a health scare, I was too scared to talk to him. Sudhir: I guess because of my upbringing, I am not afraid of dying – I just want to be fully prepared. Ruth: I don’t think you can say any one religion offers more comfort than another. Gina: In Mexico, we celebrate death: we visit our relatives and have Day of the Dead. Majid: I love talking to you every day: it’s a great opportunity to talk about living – that’s really what you’re talking about. Colleen: So often, when someone is ‘going’ you want to do something. My mother’s given me something to do in the event she can’t speak: she’s asked me to read to her. I feel very comforted by...

Things I’ve learned from dying

Living, knowing you are going to die Drawn, as I am, to learning ever more about how we die, and how ‘one’ dies, this David Dow title, “Things I’ve learned from Dying ” had me at ‘hello’ Dow – who is very much alive – is a death row lawyer in Texas . He writes beautifully about, and pours insight into the humanity of those on the row. But that’s not why I found his book so important and compelling: it’s the parallel story that I fastened on: Dow’s story of Peter – his father in law –  who died within a year of diagnosis. Throughout the sickness, its treatment and decisions about, Peter shares with Dow some light, along with the darkness of regrets, disappointments, conflicts and depression, and self-awareness. These emotions and reactions along the journey, tell an eternal story: Not wanting to lose a loved one, perhaps at the cost of the loved one’s quality of life As Peter says: “You all want me to stay alive, but that is because you want me to be in your lives. Of course that flatters me, and makes me happy and sad, but that desire does not give you a ballot, and even if it did, it is wrong to cast a vote that treats me as a means to your ends. I want to die with dignity, and you are all determined to thwart me.“ Peter is the loved one, torn between his own needs and those of his family: “For [daughter] Katya, either I am here or I am not. For me the line is elusive....

Long Distance Caregiving at Life’s End

Long distance caregiving When a parent becomes very ill, living far away is stressful. Growing up in Lebanon, Nada studied and worked in the US, before migrating to Canada – where she set about restarting her career. Always, in the back of her mind, was the need to eventually support her mother – who remained Lebanon with the rest of Nada’s family. A call from Lebanon changed her priorities:  her mother, twice cancer survivor, was rushed into gastric surgery. With medical bills to pay, Nada, then 6 months pregnant, took the first short-term job contract in Canada – thinking her best help would from a distance. In Lebanon, her family thought that being at a distance and pregnant – Nada should be protected. Nada mourns this decision: “I was not consulted. I did not need protecting.“ Nada’s lesson:  Don’t presume to make decisions on someone else’s behalf. The doctor treating Nada’s mother was a strong advocate of an experimental treatment. It’s not unusual for patients and their families to make an educated decision to proceed with experimental treatments, when proven treatments have been ineffective. “My mother, a college graduate, found the idea suspicious but I insisted. I remember talking to the doctor who downplayed its published side effects. Even when my mother complained, he assured me they were manageable. Being at a distance, I had no way to gauge the reality. As her mother continued to talk about the pain of stomach cramps Nada researched complementary treatments, but the doctor was emphatic about continuing the experimental treatment. “I feel he played upon my emotions: I certainly felt pressured when he...

Astronaut, Chris Hadfield: Does Outer Space hold the key to Aging Research?

Long Term Care and Retirement Communities Conference: Together We Care Canadian Astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield, showed his chops as a stand-up comedian at the Together We Care: Long Term Care and Retirement Communities Conference. “There is no bad situation that you can’t make worse.” In his keynote, Commander Hadfield offered an out-of-this-world opportunity to study a disease of aging: space travel causes bones loss; coming back to earth, bone regenerates. In the spirit of Hadfield’s use of twitter to share beyond his capsule, tweeters at the conference shared with their communities: Hadfield’s message gave this perspective on his measure of success: Winston Churchill on ‘media relations’: “Be honest. Be brief. Be seated.” Hadfield is a media darling who needs no training to answer newshounds. Health, on the other hand, seems always under fire. In a panel led by author and news veteran, Steve Paikin, and featuring health reporter Andre Picard, former Ontario Hospital Association CEO Tom Closson, Psychologist, Dr Maggie Gibson, and Robert Waite, bandied about answering to the media in a healthcare crisis, with Picard advising: “There’s no shame in saying ‘I don’t know’ “. On a more serious note, Dr Sherry Dupuis, whose life focus is humanizing those with Dementia points out, “all behavior is communication”, and wants us to consider ‘intent’ before assuming a person with dementia is out-of-control: “We have to look at the intent behind the behavior. Even with severe Dementia, people can communicate with intent, which is often mis-interpreted as ‘disruptive bvehaviours’. As an example: every day, the man with Dementia would come into the lunchroom and knock the hat of the head...