Near Death Experiences are a universal phenomenon throughout the world. No culture is void of their presence. What does it mean? Is there a scientific explanation or is it a metaphysical experience?
Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification as well as AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification. The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.
Spirituality is part of everyone. The whole person, mental and physical. While spirituality is more individual than social, many doctors do not give the holistic care to the entire being of the patient. Doctor sometimes focus more on the body, recovery and failure based on life or death. Many times the pastoral and spiritual issues are not identified. The patient has multiple needs and even for the non religious, many have spiritual needs or at least spiritual acknowledgement during grief and loss during care.
The article, “Does spirituality belong at the doctor’s office?” by Jen Rose Smith takes a closer look for the need of pastoral and spiritual care of patients. She states,
“In fact, many patients would like to discuss spiritual matters with their health care providers: One study found that 83% of patients want physicians to ask about their spiritual beliefs, especially when they’re facing life-threatening illness, serious medical conditions and bereavement. “A high percentage of people, if they’re in the hospital for a physical illness, would like to talk to their physician about spiritual matters and have a conversation,” said Dr. John Graham, president and CEO of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center, a cosponsor of this month’s conference.”
Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pastoral Thanatology
Many patients who are dying face a sterile environment in a hospital, not comfortable and with many good intentioned healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals are not trained to help individuals deal with death, or are able to emotionally and spiritually offer consolation. The death of a person is seen more as a failure than seeing death as part of a new step in existence or part of living itself.
In some cases, the dying patient is cared by also an older relative who also is facing emotional as well their own physical struggles. This can also compound issues.
The dying patient in essence has multiple needs from a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual standpoint. They need not only physical care but whole care of their entire essence. Death and dying is a scary time in life but it is part of life. Death is not a failure, nor is it something unnatural. It is the second biggest event in one’s life next to birth itself. Yet it is shunned due to various taboos. Helping someone die well is part of the importance of end of life care. Palliative Care looks to help individuals deal with cancer life diseases, while Hospice prepares the person for death by not looking to necessarily heal but manage symptoms.
Hence care for the dying is usually divided up amongst various groups from doctors to nurses to family to ministers and chaplains. Each playing a pivotal part. In some cases, individuals fall through the cracks and their most important emotional and spiritual needs are neglected. To ensure complete care though, it is important to understand a patient’s rights when dying and what are the most important aspects to address for the dying
Looking at physical needs are the first aspect. It is essential to give comfort. Pain management, breathing, and overall comfort is key. Pain management looks to address pain and discomfort from a chronic and acute sense. Unfortunately, not all pain can be caught in time and in some cases, individuals needlessly suffer from a physical standpoint. Legal statues have been passed that insist that treating pain is essential part of care.
Beyond pain, other issues such as breathing, skin sores, insomnia, loss of appetite, constipation, dehydration, nausea and fatigue are all issues caregivers must address in providing care to the dying. Keeping the patient comfortable and out of distress is a key part of care of the dying patient and it is a right of every human being to die with dignity and limited pain as possible.
In these cases, the six month period of hospice can supply a person with many pain management strategies. Unfortunately, many individuals do not utilize this service or consider it a taboo of giving up on life. None of this is true. In fact, some may recover or live longer, but this is not the goal of hospice. Hospice is about pain management and comfort. This is why it is so important to utilize to maintain one’s own dignity and comfort in dying.
Beyond these physical needs comes the numerous emotional and mental needs of the dying patient. Many want to be healed or fear death. More pastorally trained healthcare providers can also give the dying some sort of care in this regard. First, by speaking to them as a person. This is critical. Caregivers need to speak to dying as the living. Many are spoken about in the shadows as if they are already gone. It is important to understand the emotional grief of the dying. False promises are not encouraged but hope. Hope that they will not die alone. Hope that their wishes will be carried out. Hope that they will be remembered. And in some cases, discussing death no matter how uncomfortable.
Many dying wish to discuss the elephant in the room but are left to the side and emotionally left to themselves while family mourn them in advance or nurses treat them merely as a number. This is truly sad because the dying are still alive. They still have emotional needs and desires.
Beyond these emotional issues is also the spiritual. This is a more difficult road to cross because some individuals may be of a different faith or have no faith at all. One should speak to the family or look for cues. One should not look to convert one to another ideal, but merely discuss faith or what the dying wishes to express and ensure that the proper religious authorities meet their spiritual needs. Many religious cultures have a variety of needs to be met as death approaches and death anxiety can be lessened by many when religious needs are met.
As an individual embarks on the road of death, they need companions to help them. Due to taboo of death discussions, or seeing death as a medical failure, or seeing patients not as full human beings, then dignity in death is lessened. It is important for care givers to ensure full human dignity at the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels are met for the dying.
Please also consider reviewing AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pastoral Thanatology
Care of the Dying Patient edited by David A. Fleming and John C. Hagan III
Dying is as much part of life as birth, yet many dismiss it, hide it and avoid it. Death is a taboo subject for many. It is forbidden word of bad luck. When such attitudes persist, how one experiences death or experiences death with a loved one can be negative.
It is important to face death as we face birth. We need to live the dying process fully and despite the pain, stand by those who are dying. David Kessler explained it best as how we used to meet our loved ones at the gate of an airport. We met them there, but when their time to leave arrived, we walked them to the gate. While this is no longer possible since 911, the idea and analogy fits perfectly. We welcome many from day 1 and in some cases we also say good bye to them. We cannot cheat the process. We cannot just drop them off at the terminal and allow a shuttle to carry them off. We need to be with them every step of the way.
In honoring them, in honoring the death process, loved ones need to be with the loved one, yet many negative ideas on death prevent this important time of bonding. Seeing death as the enemy, as a bad word, and as something to be avoided, leads to regrets later. It not only affects the dying loved one in a negative way, but it also prevents healthy healing later for the surviving person.
How many times, do individuals not speak about the person’s condition, avoid the disease, maybe even avoid the dying person? How many times, do individuals chastise other family members for speaking about death to the dying, or express emotion.
In addition to dismissing death, many hide emotion. They think one must be strong for the loved one who is dying. This prevents true expression of love. It incurs unresolved issues that can later haunt the bereaved. Most importantly, it prevents the dying to express their own emotions with the loved one. So many chances are lost when death is not spoken about with the dying, or emotions are not permitted to be shared in this intimate moment.
So what do we speak about to the dying? David Kessler and Elisabeth Kubler Ross would simply state, “listen”. By listening, we give ourselves to the dying, and we also allow them to open up. No conversation is wrong. It allows the dying to express their frustrations, their fears, their dreams. It allows closure in things that may never find closure.
Somedays, certain conversations about the reality of death may not be beneficial. Other days, simply talking about the game and allowing the dying to live suffices. Other times, discussing death can help the person face the reality and discuss important matters, or share certain feelings. It is critical in these narrowing days of life, that one shares what one feels. To hide and take away this precious time of mutual disclosure will never be there again.
Hence it is important to share things, to discuss death, to discuss anything and most importantly listen. It is also crucial to share emotion, to allow the dying to know it is fine to be cry too! Too many times, individuals masquerade their feelings in these final precious moments.
Death is part of life and not something that should be done wrongly. Dying wrongly or experiencing death with a loved one is not about how one dies but how one experiences that death or process. One who experiences death with communication and no false faces is not denied the dignity of it. One who sojourns the dying to the final gate, experiences its entirety. It is far from pleasant but when dying and loved ones experience death fully together, then it far more healthy in the short term for the dying and the long term for the mourner. It is a moment in time that is intimate and precious and one we owe our loved ones to experience fully with them.
That is the pain of life but it is part of life. We must live life to the fullest and live it correctly. Death is no different.
Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. Care of the dying is an important field and the Pastoral Thanatology Certification can help one in helping others die well and in peace.
Dying is part of life. Dying is not a failure but a pivotal part of human experience. No-one truly knows what is like to die but individuals can learn how to face it. Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler wrote extensively on death and the needs of the dying. They discussed vital aspects in how to counsel and listen to the dying.
One of the biggest things they emphasized was to treat the dying as if they are still alive. To many times, the dying are seen merely as an old shell of what they once were. The dying are defined by their disease, not who they were. The term my “dying grandfather” is applied instead of my “grandfather who is dying”. Dying is not the essential quality of the person. The essence of the person remains.
When listening to the needs of the dying, one needs to see the full humanness of the person. They need to see the light within the person’s eyes, not the disease, the machines keeping the person alive, or the crippled body. The person still exists.
It is essential to treat the dying with dignity and respect. They deserve to be spoken to about their condition. They deserve to be involved in the decisions, if conscious. They deserve to be recognized. This is family should not shun the conversation of death, or hide their conversations outside the hospital room. The dying need to be treated as living.
The dignity of the dying is critical to maintain as a living person. They need to be listened to, spoken to, and not treated as if they already dead. Hope should never be denied. Hope is a key element. While some may remained to the reality of approaching death, hope can continue to fuel the dying. Since they are alive, hope is still always alive. To die with hope is not a bad thing.
Dreams of a cure, or a miracle are not bad things. Too many times, doctors and healthcare professionals see death as defeat and not part of life. Once the disease progresses to a certain point, they no longer view the person as alive. They sometimes dismiss hope because of their own defeat. Death, however, is not defeat. Death is natural and is as part of life as birth. Hope for life even during terminal illness does not mean one is in denial of his or her condition but that one is alive and ready to face any challenge, even to the very last breath. This is the essence of the human spirit and the true meaning of being alive.
One cannot label the dying as dead but treat them as alive. One must see in the dying, the face of a man or woman in her prime, not defined by old age or disease. Whether one believes in miracles or does not, whether one is spiritual or not, one cannot dismiss hope if they work with the dying. Hope is a powerful thing. Whether it prolongs life or does not, it definitely does not hurt the person. If the hope is well rounded in reason but yet optimistic, one can live while they are yet dying.
One cannot dismiss the final time of death as wasteful or useless. There is always a reason. More time to learn, or teach others. Family may come closer, or learn new things during the dying process. Maybe the dying wishes to see one last person.
It is important to grant hope but also to discuss death, to let the dying know they are still a complete person. They can accept death with dignity as well as fight for every breath, or they may succumb to death with the love of others surrounding them. Only if the person is given the dignity they deserve while dying is there a true possibility for a happy death.
Dignity and hope are key elements of living the fullness of death. It may seem contradictory to say living the process of death but that is what it truly is. When we view the dying as already dead, there is no true process, no true experience of this ultimate event. Death is part of life and hope and dignity are essential elements of “living” a “healthy” death.
I recommend reading the classics of Kubler Ross, as well as David Kessler’s works on the matter. Their insight, experience and analysis of death are essential to anyone working in the field of hospice, pastoral thanatology or grief counseling.
If you would like to learn more about death and dying, or would like to become certified in Pastoral Thanatology, then please review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.
Good article on the importance of funding palliative care and assisting life and dealing with suffering than ending life through assisted suicide. Pastoral Care is about preserving life and helping others find comfort in the end of life.
The article, “Catholic Medical Association: fund palliative care, not assisted suicide” by JD Flynn states,
“Palliative care involves medical care and pain management for the symptoms of those suffering from a serious illness, and refraining from taking actions that directly take the life of the patient, as opposed to the practices of assisted suicide and euthanasia.”
Good article explaining the key differences between hospice care and palliative care. It is important to know which program is best for you or a loved one and to use them correctly. Ultimately, it is about the best care and comfort for the situation.
The article, “‘That Good Night’ Perfectly Explains How Palliative Care Differs From Hospice” by Judy Stone states,
“That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour,” reminded me how poorly the U.S. deals with palliative care—a specialty that focuses on symptom relief—let alone end of life decisions and hospice care. The two terms are different and commonly misunderstood.”
So many think they are not eligible for Hospice and so many more think they have to die to enter into it. These are both myths. Hospice is available for many and is not necessarily a death sentence. It is not about giving up on life but living life.
The article, “Mark Harvey: You may qualify for hospice — and you’re not required to die” by Mark Harvey, looks at the true realities behind hospice. The article states,
So, basically, hospice care is not about trying to cure a terminal illness; it’s about improving the quality of the life that the patient has left. And it does a remarkable job of doing that.
Good article on how end of life counseling can help individuals can face death and end of life with more peace and confidence. End of life care is becoming recognized as something more and more important in today’s world. Pastoral Thanatology is a way to help individuals face death and help families cope with the death of a loved one.
The article, “They made me feel like a person”: Palliative care counseling changes lives for patients, families” by Holly Gainer states,
“The patients are not the only ones who receive care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Counseling for the patients and their family members is an integral part of the UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care.”
Also please review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional needs. Pastoral Thanatology is becoming more and more critical for behavioral health professionals and as well those who work with the dying. If you would like to learn more, again, please review the program.
Good article about the many ethics of end of life care. End of life care has many spiritual, cultural and religious ideals surrounding it where one must care with proper boundaries and understanding of those traditions. Furthermore, there is a list of ethical care regarding the physical aspects of end of life. This leads to multiple ethical rules and regulations one must follow.
The article, The Ethics of End-of-Life Care, by Joe Darrah states,
“Regardless of one’s healthcare condition, contemplating end-of-life care is never an easy thought process for the patient or loved ones. For nurses who are tasked with helping to guide decisions related to the initiation of palliative care and advanced directives, no two scenarios are the same and ethical dilemmas can often arise. ADVANCE recently spoke with three nurses who shared their most frequent types of ethical decisions that they’re confronted with and how they have attempted to navigate specific encounters.”