Learning to talk about death

July 1, 1993

Learning to talk about death

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National Hospice Foundation research indicates that Americans will talk about safe sex and drugs with their children, but we find it difficult to discuss end-of-life wishes and care with anyone—children or parents. Media focus on end-of-life issues has been helpful in directing attention on the possibility of dying well for us, a generation that has had the option of choosing to live well.

It is no surprise that 80 percent of Americans want to die at home; it is sad that less than 25 percent actually reach that goal. Too many Americans still die alone or in pain. Many endure costly or ineffective treatments. Response to surveys shows that we have definite priorities for our loved ones facing the end of life. We overwhelmingly insist on giving a patient some choice of care, tailoring pain control programs to individual wishes, supporting families emotionally, and guaranteeing that no one will override the patient’s wishes.

It is interesting that, as organized as Americans are, we will plan our estates, talk about life insurance, write a will, and grant permission for posthumous organ donation. We aren’t hiding from the reality of death. But we forget that there is a dying process to plan for. Only 24 percent of us put our end-of-life wishes into writing. And if we don’t, they won’t happen,.

Hospice-type services are what people want; but most don’t know where to find them, what they really are, or—most important—how to begin talking about them. As a result, many people come to hospice very late, or not at all. November was National Hospice Month, and an opportunity for Northern Illinois Hospice Association (NIHA) to help you begin the discussion about end-of-life planning.

If you are an individual, church or organization wise enough to start the conversation on these challenging issues, call NIHA to get printed information on relevant subjects from Advanced Medical Directives, to Medicare Hospice benefits, to hospice in a nursing home setting. Our speaker’s bureau is the most experienced in the Northwestern Illinois area. Our team of nursing, social service, pastoral, bereavement and volunteer experts is available to start or lead the dialogue for your special group, club or workshop, and to tailor the subject to your needs. If you just have a question about hospice services, we will be happy to answer it, or find the person who can.

Please remember that it is not necessary to need hospice to call for information. Understanding hospice services, and conquering the fear of talking about death, can help you and your family have the conversation that empowers you to take control when you would otherwise be the most powerless. Have that important conversation. Start by calling NIHA for information at 398-0500.

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