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Death and Dying

Death and Dying

Introduction

It is a true fact that most people fear death. Death is still a great mystery, making a central topic of discussion resulting to philosophy, science and religion to disagree about different aspects of death and dying from the beginning of human history. Even though dying is considered as a natural part of human existence, America culture remains unique when it comes to the level at which death is considered as a taboo topic. Rather than having discussions that are open, people tend to look at death as a feared enemy that has to be defeated by modern machines and medicine.  The language used reflects the above battle mentality as most people say “fall victim” following a long struggle or “combat” illness. Euphemistic language also results to people distancing themselves from their discomfort with death. The people who die are considered as no longer being with the people and some of the commonly terms used in describing death include meet the Marker, passed on, and kicked the bucket.

Some of the discomfort associated with the process of death and dying has been as a result of the fact that death is no longer considered as a common experience. Typically, people no longer die in their homes surrounded by friends and family and mostly in hospitals as well as other heath care centers. Out of approximately 6,500 reported deaths in the United States today, only 1200 cases have been at home[1]. The limited personal experience with death and dying adds to the sense of people of fear and trepidation.

It is the nature of human beings to try and avoid the things they fear. Because people tend to be afraid, they seem to avoid thinking about their own mortality. It is a high time that people adjust their thinking about death and dying as this is a unique era. Medical advances have been appreciated for defeating sudden causes of death such as stroke and heart attack, and now most people are dying from slower moving illness like cancer cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory illness.

Following the above situation, most patients have been awarded the gift of time as well as the chance to shape their process of death and dying. Most people now enjoy the luxury of recording and expressing financial wishes and medical care in advance. In addition, people have the chance to address interpersonal issues such as forgiving old hurts and their spiritual issues such as finding the meaning of life before they die[2].

Planning for Own Death-Legal and Financial Affairs

Addressing financial and legal issues related to death is important for a number of reasons. It helps an individual specify in advance, how the personal hard-earned assets will be distributed after his or her death. In addition, a person will be in a position to record his or her medical wishes and go ahead to designate a person that is most trusted to serve as the voice should the individual get to the point that he or she cannot communicate prior death. A person will also get a sense of peace from the knowledge that he or she has done the best to protect friends and family left behind and to do away with some of the stressors that may result in problems for the grieving survivors.

A part from the legal considerations that surround the disposition of personal assets and estate, in addition to making medical wishes known, there are daily financial considerations that have to be thought through when one plans for death. Some of the financial considerations include trusts, Medicare and Social Security and beneficiary information.

Advance Funeral Arrangements

In addition to the financial and legal arrangements, most people make advanced funeral preparations. While this looks like a morbid task to many, such plans can prepare the remaining family from having to come up with difficult choices at some point in future when they are still dealing with the grief and death. Advance planning is also a means of spreading out the cost and hence reduces the financial burden that the burial and funeral may place on the surviving members of the family. In the United States, funeral and burial costs are approximated to be around $ 6,000 and vary depending on the basis of specific preferences[3].  Both the details myriad and cost involved in funeral planning may seem overwhelming to a family that is grieving.

Some of the advanced planning tasks may include buying burial space in a mausoleum or plots, making plans on the services type that are to be held, and discussions with the family members with regards to an individual desires. The Federal Trade Commission came up with a Funeral Rule regulation that outlines the common procedures and practices that all funeral homes have to follow in their operations. The rule states that a consumer who contracts any funeral home has to be given line item lists containing prices as well as addition information on all the available services like ceremonies, caskets, personnel, items present at the funeral or viewing and transportation of the body.

Dealing with Imminent Death-Theories on Acceptance of Impending Death

Research has it that when a person is considering his or her death, most people tend to be concern about potential helplessness, pain, dependency as the well-being of their loved ones. Some of the other common concerns include fear of unpleasant and painful afterlife, fear of individuality and dignity and fear of the unknown.

The most famous theory on grieving stages of impending deaths is the one presented by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in the book “On Deaths and Dying”. In this book, Ross’s stages of grieving have also been employed by the larger grief community as a way of describing the process of grieving more generally[4]. Coming to terms with deaths and dying is a loss experience and in some occasion when it comes to grief, there are merit to this inclusion and reasons for one to get familiar with the stages of Dr. Kubler-Ross stages. However, not every individual goes through all the stages mentioned by Ross and if one happens to experience them all, they won’t necessarily take place in the particular order as presented in the book.

Dealing with own Imminent Death-Preparations and Activities

Once an individual accepts his or her upcoming death, the person may wish to begin journalizing process or life review in an effort to get the personal thoughts put down on paper or share personal life history with the rest of the family for the coming future generations. A person may also wish to mend broken relations or solve past conflicts. Such a process may include contacting people who the individual might have hurt in one way or the other, whether through actions or words. Most people tend to feel the need to solve pending issues as a means of tying up any loose ends. Most people on their dying bed feel that time has come to put all affairs in order and enjoy all relationships they have in the time that they still have.

In addition to making amends or repairing broken relationships, this time is often used to say goodbye to friends and family members. This can be written as a special letter that is meant to be opened after burial or done verbally. Such a period always involves people coming together in larger groups to celebrate the life of the person who has died. Friends  and family members who live away from the area may make final visits to see a person on his or her last moments, to share what the relationship the person had with them meant over the years and offer help and support during that challenging time[5].

The dying time should be a time that an individual continues with the day today activities as much as possible as he or she lives each passing hour to the fullest and not become isolated and withdrawn. A person may come up with a list of the things he or she wishes to do before death and these may include spending time with friends and family, visiting special places and reading. Even though death is regarded as imminent, one should try keeping active both in body and minding and enjoying the remaining days. Keeping active does not mean that one has to be with others constantly. It is important that a person at this stage in life remembers that he or she has the right to be alone if he or she wishes and process emotions and thoughts privately. Friends and families may wish to be with such a person constantly, offering their support in a move to distract themselves as well as the person from what is a head. It is allowed that such kind of a person stays alone if he or she needs or desires or requires some down time.

Symptoms and Signs of Approaching Death

While in the process of dying each person experiences the final stages of life differently depending on individuals injury or illness or the causative factor, there are a number of common symptoms that are often witnessed[6];

  • Changes in energy level and sleeping patterns. An individual generally stays awake less time and his or her energy level decreases.
  • Breathing pattern changes. A person may experiences rapid breathing periods or in some cases the breathing stops completely for few seconds before it resumes.
  • It is common to see people or hear voices of people who do no exist
  • Changes in Appetite. Individuals tend to lose their interest in food and consumer less food than normal
  • Personality and emotional changes. A person may become depressed and withdrawn, interact less with others and become less and less interested in the world around. Depending on the illness, some people show personality changes.

Caring for a Dying Person

Offering care for a person who is dying can be an emotional and very difficult experience and yet in one way or another, a rewarding experience. There are many challenges that come along with such a task especially when it comes to making a dying person as comfortable as possible and assisting the person with all the unfinished tasks that the person wishes to accomplish before dying.

One of the most important things to take into consideration is that one has to take care of his or herself in addition to taking care of the dying person. This can be a trying and stressful time and if the care giver is not in a position to take care of himself like getting enough food and rest. In such a situation, the care provider will not be able to provide quality care to the patient either. The caregiver has to monitor his or her own emotions and seek professional or outside help if necessary, incase the person gets overcome by fear, anxiety, anger, guilt or depression that may threaten to overwhelm they caregiver temporarily. This may also include seeking help from other family members and friends when such is needed or allowing other to offer their help when they offer[7].

Types of Care Available to Those Who Are Dying

There exist two kind of care available for a dying person and they include; hospice and palliative. However, the two are often used interchangeably but there is a distinct difference between them.

Palliative care is a type of medical treatment that focuses on reducing the disease symptoms severity or slowing the progress of the disease, rather than offering a cure. This form of care is typically offered by medical professionals’ teams at a medical facility like a nursing home or hospital. The aim of this type of care include ensuring that the person as comfortable as possible and addressing the needs of quality life in psychological, spiritual and physical realms in the remaining time. This type of care can be offered at any point of the illness and for an extended time period as much as it is necessary.

In the United States, hospice care is regarded as a specific kind of palliative care that is limited the final six months of the life of a person after being determined by a diagnosis from a doctor. This type of care is provided 24 hours a day and can be offered at the home of an individual, a nursing home or hospital or a hospice care facility[8].

Funeral and Burial

Funerals are an important part f the process of mourning for surviving friends and family. They are a time friends and family have to celebrate the life of a person, receive and provide support and share memories. Each religion, culture and spiritual group have their own different funeral practice and rituals which prescribe how to honor or remember the deceased while at the same time assist those who are left behind in coping with the process of grieving. Such rituals may be vastly different from one group to the other.

The preference of an individual also influences funerals. Even though most organized religions follow formal burial and funeral, some individuals prefer cremation. Other people find it helpful to come up with their own personal rituals and traditions. Some of the mourners find more comfort in traditional rituals, while others may as well find them hollow. Some people may think that having a formal ceremony will be different and clichéd than the preferences and personality of the deceased, however, it is important to note that such rituals are meant more for the benefit of the grieving mourners as a group, than for an individual mourner or for the deceased. There are three general rituals and rites that are commonly scheduled following a death and they include; a visitation, funeral and internment or burial.

Conclusion

Death and dying are considered as an inseparable part of human life. For people to live a life of honest and without any fear, they have to accept the fact that death is ultimately inevitable. Death should not be a cause of fear in people’s lives but rather something to make people live their lives in the best way possible. It is important for people not to run away from the reality of death but instead come up with responsible preparations that include legal and financial arrangements, well as talking about the wishes of friends and family. Bu understanding the rituals and rites that are associated with death in the religion, culture and spiritual group, people can better prepare for death and grieving process.

 

 

 

References

Callanan, M & Kelley, P., (2007).  Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying. New York: Bantam

Kessler, D. (2007).  The Needs of the Dying: A Guide For Bringing Hope, Comfort, and Love to Life’s Final Chapter. New York: Harper Paperbacks

Kübler-Ross, E. (2005) On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. California: Simon & Schuster Ltd

Kubler-Ross, E. (2007). On Death and Dying (Reprint Edition). New York:Scribner

Nuland, S. (2007).  How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter. New York: Vintage

Rando, T., (2001). How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies. New York: Bantam

Tobin, R & Lindsey, K (2009).  Peaceful Dying: The Step-By-Step Guide to Preserving Your Dignity, Your Choice, and Your Inner Peace at the End of Life. New Jersey: Perseus Books Group

Vitez, M., (2008). Final Choices: Seeking the Good Death. New Jersey: Saul, & Ron Cortes, Camino Books

[1] Kessler, D. (2007).  The Needs of the Dying: A Guide For Bringing Hope, Comfort, and Love to Life’s Final Chapter. New York: Harper Paperbacks

 

[2] Kubler-Ross, E. (2007). On Death and Dying (Reprint Edition). New York: Scribner

 

[3] Rando, T., (2001). How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies. New York: Bantam

 

[4] Callanan, M & Kelley, P., (2007).  Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying. New York: Bantam

 

[5] Tobin, R & Lindsey, K (2009).  Peaceful Dying: The Step-By-Step Guide to Preserving Your Dignity, Your Choice, and Your Inner Peace at the End of Life. New Jersey: Perseus Books Group

 

[6] Vitez, M., (2008). Final Choices: Seeking the Good Death. New Jersey: Saul, & Ron Cortes, Camino Books

 

[7] Tobin, R & Lindsey, K (2009).  Peaceful Dying: The Step-By-Step Guide to Preserving Your Dignity, Your Choice, and Your Inner Peace at the End of Life. New Jersey: Perseus Books Group

 

[8] Kübler-Ross, E. (2005) On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. California: Simon & Schuster Ltd

 

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Death and Dying

In general, which is harder to deal with, the death of a parent, spouse, or child? What determines how difficult a  particular death will be for someone to cope with?

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