Soul Service: A Hospice Guide to Emotional and Spiritual Care for the Dying - A Deeper Level of Consciousness to Dying

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Making Better Choices for End-of-Life Care
Conscious Dying
What it Means to Hold Sacred Space for the Dying
Combining Integrative Medicine with Traditional Treatments
Facing and Embracing the Terminal Illness


death and dying
Honor the Dying
Medical Training for End-of-Life Care
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Making Better Choices for End-of-Life Care

Most people in the United States who are Medicare eligible have a difficult choice to make when faced with a terminal diagnosis: continue with traditional medical treatment or switch to hospice care which focuses not on a cure but on easing their final days. In the past this choice often was an emotionally draining one for the patient and their families.

Conscious Dying

It is not always possible to cure the diseases of the body, but healing from the soul level is possible. Most of the people who sit with someone actively dying feel the experience as a very spiritual one. It is a reminder of their limited mortality.  How we choose to see the death experience can make it a gift or something to be feared.  When you see someone dying, be there with them. Encourage honesty, stay clear and as conscious as possible as someone nears death. Be compassionate and as calm as you can be.

What it Means to Hold Sacred Space for the Dying

There is nothing as wonderful or confusing as caring for the physical and emotional needs of someone at the end of life. It requires so much, but at the same time, gives back to the caregiver, for patients not only receive and caregivers not only give. Caregivers are witnesses. They witness the life that is unfolding in front of them. Just to be there to recognize the significance of people sharing their lives at this time and perhaps have an opportunity to shine a light on a part of a person’s life that may have gone unrecognized is truly a gift.

Combining Integrative Medicine with Traditional Treatments

Imagine a medical environment where your whole health is taken into consideration by your treating doctor. In this world attention would be paid to not just your physical symptoms, but your emotional, spiritual and mental states as well. So often a physician is fearful of being seeing as a too unorthodox if he or she embraces the concept of treating the whole person.  Most doctors are more comfortable just being body mechanics whose only job is to treat the patient’s symptoms.

Facing and Embracing the Terminal Illness

One of the hardest lessons we have as humans is on the subject of loss. As we all go through the many seasons of our lives there is no shortage of opportunities to experience the death of our friends, family members and beloved pets along the way. The ultimate loss we will all face is our own death. We are all dying, from the moment we are born, we are finite beings. Even if we have been good about getting our financial and health care affairs in order ahead of time, we still have to come to grips in the end with the often difficult emotional and spiritual work that happens as we come face to face with our own upcoming deaths.

Better End-Of-Life Training for Medical Professionals

The reluctance of medical and nursing schools to embrace training upcoming doctors and nurses in the care of the terminal patient is an ongoing problem. This is a badly needed reform that is long overdue. Why the problem? Mostly, the mindset of the medical community is one of actively saving lives, seeing death as the enemy that needs to be fought at all costs. The mindset of not accepting death as a natural process at the end of life, often resulting in futile care. Doctors and nurses are not trained in the classroom while in school to develop appropriate communication skills, acquire technical knowledge to manage pain, or to learn to address the psychosocial and spiritual needs and their families.

Removing the Fear from the Death Experience

Perhaps for most of us the fear of death is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in this life. Often people will say they do not fear death itself but the physical pain and suffering that often accompanies the end-of-life experience. With the advent of palliative care, a new medical specialty focusing on pain management, there should be less fear of the physical pain that can come with terminal illness. In today’s hospital and hospice experiences almost no person will be left without an option to control pain and suffering as they prepare to make their transition out of this world.

Coping With the Loss of a Loved One During the Holidays

Losing a loved one to death is a painful and traumatic experience. The loss of a loved one is always painful, but during the holidays, the feelings of loss can be even more acute. In my interviews for my bookSoul Service: A Hospice Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care for the Dying( Balboa Press, 2013)  it was found that the dying person wants to be included as much as possible in all family activities and certainly longs to be touched physically and an active participant in the death process.

End-of-Life Wishes Often Ignored by Doctors

A recent study conducted by the Institute of Medicine found in its “Dying in America” report showed a huge discrepancy between peoples wishes on how to die and how they actually die. Though people want to die a pain free death in the privacy of their own homes, most people do not have a legal document to state their wishes and even those who do often face a medical system not designed to give them what they want.
Dr. David Walker and Dr. Phillip Pizzo, both co-chaired the committee that issued this disturbing report.

End-of-Life Medical System Needs Doctoring

Many years ago patients had primarily one family doctor who knew them well. Today with all of the many specialists and often there is a resultant lack of coordination of care, there can be a feeling of confusion and brokenness in the doctor-patient relationship. One doctor who attempted to bring a deeper level of caring to his patients found it to be cost prohibitive. Dr. Sandeep Jauhar author of the book
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