By Debbie Hall
One of the most uncomfortable conversations one can discuss with a loved one is about death and their wishes, whether it is about end of life care or what to do after their passing. People have trouble bringing up the subject, don’t want to talk about it or just ignore it. In the 1960s, Robert Redford appeared in an episode of “The Twilight Zone” as the angel of death. The woman he was escorting after her passing had remained a hermit to avoid death and was shocked he had found her. This series might be 50 years old but dramatized a reality that is just as true today. Everyone will eventually die.
“There is no greater gift of love than to have your desires recorded for your family in advance. ”
Recently, Nathan Adelson Hospice featured “Elevating and Celebrating The Conversation” with the suggestion that a meal or get together is planned with family and loved ones focusing on death and dying in a relaxed environment. The keynote speaker, Brian Murphy, M.D., addressed the importance of having these conversations and ways to initiate these discussions with family and friends.
Carole Fisher, president and CEO of Nathan Adelson Hospice, was introduced to the idea of Death at Dinner conversation and is working on incorporating that concept at Nathan Adelson. “It is such a hard discussion to have since it is dealing with the unknown. We made it our mission to help to begin conversations. I participated in Death at Dinner to walk the talk. I happen to be on vacation with 17 of us at the beach and we had that conversation. It was great, so helpful and we all learned things about each other.”
Fisher explained that the unexpected should be discussed. “For instance, what if you are on life support at age 50 versus age 90? You may have different opinions on what you want done at various ages. Think about different scenarios, what has happened to other people and talk about it.”
Fisher encourages creating a casual setting since the conversation is very difficult and the setting might make it easier. A good way to begin is to talk about those who have already passed. “We spoke about my grandmother and how she died and things we didn’t expect. My mother was there and it was her mother who had passed. We were able to talk through some of these scenarios and share fond memories of my grandmother who was a fabulous woman. Then we discussed my husband’s mother, her health challenges and shared humorous stories. It is a nice way to launch into the conversation.”
According to Fisher, Nathan Adelson, a leader in end of life care, has a responsibility to help people with advanced care planning. With discussions about death, affairs can be put in order while a person is healthy. Nathan Adelson is preparing to launch a program, Deciding Tomorrow … Today. The program will offer helpful hints and step by step instructions making it unique to Southern Nevada.
Venetta Pry has worked as a family service counselor for Palm Mortuary for 19 years and has counseled people during their most emotional time when they have lost someone and are not certain what their loved one wanted or knew other vital details. Palm Mortuary offers a personal planning guide that is a comprehensive journal that allows people to document all of their final wishes.
According to Pry, “There is no greater gift of love than to have your desires recorded for your family in advance. Death happens to all of us and, with advanced planning, your family will be prepared for your passing and able to make arrangements even on the darkest day.