Let’s Get Real about Death and Dying.
Transforming end-of-life care, and advocating for what we believe in takes a commitment to personal change. Helping our loved ones, patients, and colleagues face death, requires that we first come face-to-face with our own attitudes and aversions to it. As a result, death is not any less difficult. But it gives us autonomy, and the chance to have the death we want, when the time comes.
In this blog, I will share my own reflections in real-time on both my experiences with my patients and current events involving death and dying in America.
I arrived in Juneau, Alaska yesterday to speak to the Foundation for End-of-Life (EOL) care, which is striving to improve its city’s medical care for dying patients.
This is the third time in a month that I have been invited to speak in front of such an organization. It was Tucson’s Community Coalition for EOL Care two weeks ago, and Fort Worth’s a few weeks before that. Each time, I’ve been struck by the dedication and persistence of a small group of people working at the grassroots level to change the culture of its city.
These are the everyday heroes we often do not hear about, the “regular citizens” demanding that we treat this vulnerable population better. They understand that kicking the ball through the goalpost will require the buy-in and collaboration of the most important stakeholders, including business-people, healthcare institutions, city council members.
I am brought in to help them make the case, to persuade the various stakeholders of the importance of engaging with this topic. “Please make sure that you explain to the business owners why they should care that hospice would be available to their employees,” I was asked in Sierra Vista, Arizona last month. “Explain to them that these services will support their employees who have family members who are dying.”
These activists know, as do I, that although it is a hard sell, ultimately this is an issue that will affect every one of us. Thus, effectively addressing it holds the potential to benefit every one of us as well.
I am so inspired by the many change agents I’ve had the privilege to meet. It is their chipping away at our “prolong life at all costs” culture that will finally get us where we need to be. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”