Friday, February 01, 2008

Health & Wellness: Death & Dying

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, February 2008

Chronic diseases require us to adapt our lifestyles, endure the discomfort and pain associated with the disease and its treatments, and sometimes, consider the likelihood of death. Some health conditions reach the point where a “cure” is no longer possible and death is imminent. In these circumstances, organizations offering Hospice Care can help to assure that maximal quality of life is achieved during the final days and weeks. Your Rector and/or health practitioner are the best sources of information about how to prepare for death.

Coping with Death: Irrespective of our age, the process of dying often involves medical, familial, psychosocial and spiritual as well as financial demands and conflicts. Successfully addressing these demands and conflicts requires active coping strategies that may outpace our personal resources. Hospice represents a continuum of end-of-life care that “provides comfort and support for persons with life-limiting conditions as well as their families. Hospice care aims to make the person comfortable and relieve their symptoms and pain for the entire length of their illness” (

Effective Pain Management is a critical element of Hospice Care. We have all experienced many types of pain, from the pain of a sprained ankle, achy joints, a headache, an infected tooth or in the lower back. Some psychosocial disorders such as depression, moderate to severe anxiety, and other emotional problems can cause pain or they can make the experience of existing pain worse. While we have learned to cope with most of these kinds of pain with our existing resources, some diseases such as cancers cause pain that exceed our personal abilities to cope. Hospice care is likely to be of benefit here. For example, experts tell us that with proper medical intervention greater than 85% of cancer pain can be controlled. Effective pain management results from the development and application of a pain management treatment plan. Such a plan often involves the combination of treatments and medications and a proven evaluation plan that tells the team what is and what is not effectively controlling the pain. Adjustments can then be made as needed. Cancer patients and health care professionals should work together to develop this plan - the cornerstone of effective pain management.

· Hospice may also make the following types of care available, as needed:

o Emotional and psychosocial support for the patient during the course of dying.

o Specific Prayer – asking God to help you and your team manage the pain and symptoms associated with your disease(s) and prayer for acceptance of conditions you are powerless to change. Requesting the prayer intercession of others for your comfort.

o Marshalling extra familial support by teaching family members critical skills to help them to care for you.

o Providing short-term inpatient care to help you and your family manage pain and symptoms when they overwhelm your ability to manage them at home or if family caregivers need respite.

o Providing grief support and counseling for loved ones.

Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local health care provider, the Rector, or someone on the Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee (chaired by Mrs. Florence Poyer, R.N.)

Prepared by: Walter S. Handy, Ph.D., member, Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee

No comments: