She has long been a thought leader and she made her decision to begin comfort care on National Health Care Decisions Day – shining a light on the graceful exit that is possible for all of us. Her strong faith guided her; she knew she was joining a loving God. This is why she could say, “I have no fear of death.” When we can accept that the end of life is near, and when we can explore our spiritual faith with a trusted person, we open ourselves up to honest conversations with those dear to us. This can then be a time of great love and connection, a time to relish relationships in comfort and find peace and hope in your faith tradition.
As an end of life care change agent, I have counseled people into hospice care for over 20 years. People are so grateful to have comfort medicines that hospice doctors and nurses can provide so that they can be with their families, not beeping machines, at the end of life.
If we can start the conversation early, ideally when we are in our 50s or 60s, we will be aware of the benefits of hospice care before any disease becomes a crisis. Honest conversations with doctors about realistic treatment outcomes will help families make decisions that respect our deeply heartfelt need for comfort and closeness to family near the end.
There are many resources for families and caregivers that can help. Readers who would like more information about how to plan for a gentle and comfortable end of life may refer to the book Graceful Exit: 10 Things You Need To Know. Another resource is The Hope Initiative, a course designed to encourage and support caregivers, the chronically or terminally ill, and anyone contemplating life and its meaning. The material is faith-based but it helps people from all backgrounds prepare for spiritual and emotional struggles as they face questions about death.
Hospice is the answer to our fears about dying. It is a modern, multi-modal treatment plan that considers the physical, spiritual, mental, and medical aspects of people near the end of life. My dear husband died surrounded by family and our sweet dogs, in the comfort of hospice home care. I now have a serious cancer diagnosis, and I am embracing my faith and my dear family and friends as I navigate my own graceful exit.