Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Last Acts of Kindness

As a hospice volunteer, I do much work in this field. I visit with clients, and their families, to make their last days better. I provide information, listen, help them advocate for themselves, or loved ones. This is the role that people, like American Judith Redwing Keyssar, fulfill in the healthcare system on a professional basis. She has a collection of stories of clients and the lessons she has learned from them.

Last Acts of Kindness-Home

by Judith Redwing Keyssar

As Redwing wrote to me:
"My hope is that it will assist people in navigating unknown territory and become an instrument of change in regard to our cultural views of death and dying."

This book speaks to all of my pet peeves (cultural biases) that the public has about death and dying: I have the same stories as this author.
Patients who deny their situation, those with false hopes, physicians who fail to inform family members of a palliative diagnosis, oncologists who persuade patients to treat untreatable cancer, physicians who refuse to adequately manage pain symptoms, nurses who neglect patients, the Personal Support Worker who tells a resident "don't die on my shift, hon!"

This book shares the stories Redwing has collected in her work. Far too many professionals do not allow those dying to face their end with information, and understanding of the dying process, to give closure to a life well-lived. As a hospice volunteer, outside the family realm, I have listened to many clients who speak of their lives, their accomplishments, their regrets, and their hopes.

This book reiterates how the dying should be treated. It demonstrates that there is nothing to fear from those who are dying, and many lessons to be learned. Too many fail to appreciate what we can learn, and how much we can help by simply listening. We have to bite the bullet, and learn about death and dying from those who write about it. There is nothing to fear. For in reading our stories, we will all learn. This is a healthy part of the grieving process.

Too often I hear those struggling with end-of-life of a family member, not knowing if they should pull the plug, when a person is living in pain, immobile, unable to state their wishes. I have often told clients, "It's OK to let go! Your family will cope." Ms. Keyssar tells this story, as well. Many do not understand the fear a palliative client feels, and we can do much to assuage that fear.  [Can you, or your loved ones, answer these 5 questions? ]

For more information...

Judith Redwing Keyssar - Last Acts of Kindness | Facebook

It is this theory that Keyssar teaches in her practice as a midwife to the dying.
“Practice dying,” Plato encourages the living. It is this theory that Keyssar teaches in her practice as a midwife to the dying. Her uplifting stories provide essential information about the challenges and rewards that face the dying, their loved ones, and the professionals who care for them. Tonight’s multi-media presentation will open your heart to the dying process as a sacred process. Keyssar is Director of the Palliative and End-of-Life Care at Jewish Family and Children's Services of the San Francisco Bay Area and has over twenty years of experience in oncology, critical care and hospice. She is donating a portion of her proceeds to Hospice of Santa Cruz County.

Judith Redwing Keyssar, RN, BA, is the Director of the Palliative and End-of-Life Care Program at Seniors at Home, a division of Jewish Family and Children's Services (JFCS) of the San FranciscoBay Area. Previously, she was the Director of Patient Care Services for Zen Hospice Project (ZHP). Ms. Keyssar also spent fifteen years working in intensive care, oncology and hospice. She was called to be a “midwife to the dying” while she was attending her closest friend, who was dying at age 30 after sustaining severe head trauma from a motorcycle accident. The story of her initiation into the field of death and dying is presented in the prologue of the book.

People, dying alone, because friends are afraid to be there. Family members who struggle without Advance Care Directives. There is a fine line between Elder Abuse and Elder Neglect.
These are familiar stories to all who work in palliative care.

I cannot tell you the number of people who were terribly shocked when my mother died 6 weeks after I moved to live nearer to her. The Canadian public is grieving the late Jack Layton, whose final public appearance shocked us all. Many choose to hide their illness, and this does a disservice to family and friends who want time to pre-grieve, come to terms with their own mortality, and to say their goodbyes to the patient.

As I wrote in my book, Living and Dying in Dignity, we must treat the dying with dignity, but we must treat their family members with the respect we deserve: truth and honesty.

Books abound on these topics, but we seldom read them.


Powell River Books said...

A very thoughtful post for me. Thanks. - Margy

W.C.Camp said...

Sounds like an interesting and informative read. I like what the hand pictures can reveal about a life. Good post! W.C.C.

Jenn Jilks said...

Thank you, Margy. There is dignity in death. Respect for a life well-lived.
W.C. - this was a wonderful man, who was a WW II fighter pilot.

Barrie said...

Thank you for reviewing this book and for talking about this important subject.