Thursday, March 8, 2012

Improving our processes for handling the aging of people in a heartfelt and logical manner

I had an interesting conversation with a social worker from St. Vincent Hospice in Indianapolis, Indiana (USA) about her work and thoughts on how to handle people who are elderly and dying. (I was very impressed with her - Anne Alderfer). She spoke about how it took years for us (in America) to more effectively handle the birthing process. It did finally improve. For example, in the past, the father was not even allowed in the room during the birth at a hospital. Now, the father can be in the room if he chooses to be part of the birthing of his child or children.

Our conversation led me to think more about how we handle our elderly in general, not just ones who are dying. I agree with her that we should have respect for the knowledge and experience that they can share with us. Some cultures, such as those of the Indians (from whom the land of America was taken) do revere their elderly and treat them with respect. We should do the same. We should spend time with them to learn from them and enjoy whatever valuable time we have left to share with them, especially our loved ones. We should also be sure to document any stories or information from their past for us to keep and share with future generations. I liked Anne’s idea of using a life review book to guide us to ask questions about their life to share. We can then be sure to write, audio and/or video record the information for the future.

How should we handle the case in which our loved ones are dying? We should be sure they are as comfortable as possible. We should try to reduce their physical pain. We should find out how they want to spend their remaining time and do our best to honor their wishes. Each person should be free to choose how to live their life, as long as their choice does not harm others.

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