Monday, January 25, 2016

The Drip, Drip, Drip of Time

Icicles are a fleeting beauty here. They form, they grow, and then they melt. Unless they break loose unexpectedly to shatter on the ground. 

Yesterday on Facebook I read and shared THIS excellent article  -- How We Used to Die; How We Die Now -- and was a little surprised at the enthusiastic response -- from people with aging parents and from those, like me, who are looking at end of life choices for themselves. (Note: I'm fine, really. But reading obituary after obituary of people younger than myself makes me thoughtful, After all, I'm not Keith Richards who, like cockroaches, will probably outlast everyone.)
I'm not at all afraid of death -- it's the dying that worries me. And I don't want to do that hooked to machines. Evidently this is a fairly common attitude, but anxious families may demand that the physician exert every effort and, in the absence of a living will, the physician is helpless.  

Several people recommended books on the subject: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and The Conversation by Angelo Volandes.

Home death, like home birth, has its pros and cons. Both can be painful and messy, both put a toll on the attendants. But, I suspect, properly prepared for, the experience could be rewarding for all. (Did you know there is such a thing as a death doula, a person prepared to help the family usher the loved one out of the world?)

I was present at my mother's death in the hospital. The hospital was her and my father's choice, as was the nursing home my father died in -- again his choice. 

My mother-in-law died at her home here on the farm, attended by her daughter, and my husband, I was out of town but I was  told it was a quiet and peaceful passing.

May we all have the same -- whatever the setting.


katy gilmore said...

The Gawande book is terrific - another one for your stack. Thoughtful post Vicki.

Ms. A said...

Unfortunately, this is something that doesn't get discussed enough around my house and hubby and I tend to disagree on it. I want one thing, which my family knows, and he wants something entirely different. Tough topic.

Barbara Rogers said...

Unfortunately getting a living will done isn't all that easy...proper forms, legal and all, as well as notorized I think. I recently was asked by the ER physician if I had one. He said see my lawyer. Right, like I have a lawyer!

Anvilcloud said...

"I'm not at all afraid of death -- it's the dying that worries me. "


Vicki Lane said...

Barb -- from a FB friend, this info: A lawyer is the best way to be sure as you need both an advance directive and a durable power of attorney for health care, but both can be obtained online from for considerably less. Hospice makes it all possible. Covered by Medicare, they provide palliative care, medications foe comfort and pain control, all needed equipment from hospital beds to walkers, bedside commodes etc, and nurses who visit regularly and can be contacted by phone 24/7. My Dad died in his own bed, at his own house, just as he wished. We were able to make that happen because all the paperwork was in place so when he refused further treatment at the hospital they set up the hospice care and he went right home. Most difficult thing I've ever done, but so worth all the emotions and efforts.

NCmountainwoman said...

It is important to note that Advance Directives surprisingly vary from State to State. We found when we returned to NC that our WI Advance Directive was not sufficient for NC requirements.

Interesting that you should bring up Keith Richards. With so many rock stars dying in their 60s recently, my daughter and I discussed how Richard remains considering the lifestyle he led for so many years.

jennyfreckles said...

It's something we need to think about and discuss with our families if possible. I went on a workshop recently where they had a set of cards designed to assist people to think about how they would like to be cared for. The cards had prompts, which made it much easier to think through and talk about. I think there are various similar sets of cards available. has some but there may be others.

Frances said...

Vicki, I do want to take proper time to reply to this post and also to those that included some of your fine writing. I'm hoping for a chunk of free time later on this week to write to you properly.