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Best of Blog: Moral Distress in Healthcare: the Value of Dying with Dignity Pt. 4

March 31, 2013 by admin  
Filed under Best Of Blog, From Our Members

This is the last of the four-part series by 10 Million Clicks For Peace contributor, Corry Roach.
Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.

Elisabeth Kubler Ross also taught me something else that helped me, as well as assisted the process for family members of those in my care who were dying.  She spoke of how important it is to understand the remarkable power of influence we have, in needlessly extending the agony of the dying process for the patient……

Simply by foregoing acceptance of the inevitable, and ‘holding on’ to the dying patient to satisfy our own denial or inability to accept the truth of the events; we can adversely prolong the patient’s lifetime.

Patients, too, wish to resolve their issues with loved ones, and when it is not forthcoming, they wait for loved ones to make peace or forgiveness with their dying.  On many occasions I have watched these remarkable phenomena, and know it to be indeed so.  These are simple and profound lessons to be learned from this rich and sacred time, both as loving family members and as health care providers.

If we can open our hearts to our own vulnerabilities, our patients can become profound teachers to our own search for meaning in this life as we watch theirs end.  There is so much we can learn from the art of dying with grace and dignity.  We need to evaluate our moral distress in a culture where death is regarded primarily as a failure by the health care team.

Technological advances and spiritual and religious questions have unfortunately not led us closer to dealing more graciously with the question of end of life care.  Sadly, much of the research and technology has moved us away from the humanism and holism of how we need to approach the dying patient.

In 36 years of nursing practise, I’ve been privileged to care for countless dying patients.  My infant daughter’s gift of allowing me to hold her while she died made me an advocate for something I believe strongly is not only possible but necessary: a good death.

Most years, I have gone about my work quietly, and must now beseech with a clarion call to change not only how we approach the dying, but to address the necessity of the subject of spirituality in the instruction and training of our country’s doctors, nurses and other health care professions.  It is, in my view, about understanding that spirituality is about regard for our oneness as a human family, without discussion about the divisiveness that often comes about when the topic of religion is introduced.  They are not the same subject, although there is obviously a relationship.  I believe the apparent confusion about the two has led to reticence in discussion of this in scholarly healthcare institutions in the past.  This needs to be rectified if we are to succeed and serve more effectively as caregivers.

In a clear discussion regarding spirituality, there is no right or wrong; no beliefs to challenge.  Comfortable acknowledgement of patients’ need to discuss these matters needs to find comfort in our own psyche as caregivers as well…

We must join together and accept the inevitability of our own mortality.  At the expense of the innocent, we have worn blinders long enough!  My greatest distress is that needless suffering continues to be a part of our healthcare intervention, when the illness is simply ignorance.

We need to awaken to that realization, as I am grateful to note by the very gathering of this specific conference and its overwhelming reception by those of us who work in this field.  This superb response of expressed interest tells me there is indeed a hunger and need to be met here; it isn’t just my personal imagination or level of concern.

We need to refocus from technology and research, and instead roll up our sleeves and dare to embrace the intimacy and holy ground in recognition of what the dying can teach us.  We can learn what it means to love enough to surrender our patients to something we ultimately cannot know scientifically or otherwise in this life, and it will not be regarded as failure.  Instead, it will be…as it should be.

We must carry this mystery with greater dignity, grace and humility, as something not to be feared but instead respected and expected when all reasonable attempts to sustain life have been surpassed.

My sister’s greatest desire was to leave a legacy that would teach healers about the need and value in dying with dignity, humour and grace.  It is my hope to bring this message to all who care for patients in the home, hospice, palliative care, ICU, long term care as well as active treatment facilities.

In my first book, By Grace of Mourning, I describe the life and death of my infant daughter in the NICU after a month of treatment and heroic interventions. I also describe my healing journey of grief and mourning back from that event, due in part to the gifted mentorship by the late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, who was world renowned for her work in the field of death and dying. She taught me how to embrace my grief and grow through it, finding meaning in the madness of mourning. With time, I came to truly appreciate the authenticity and meaning of grace in mourning.

The late Elisabeth Kubler Ross called this ‘working through our unfinished business.’ When we resolve our fears about death, only then can we fully embrace life.

In a world where we have so much opportunity to care for others, let us offer ourselves the opportunity to examine our personal feelings about our own mortality. Let it be a loving sign of permission to grow if you feel confusion, fear or reticence around those who are dying.  They need you as a present, compassionate caregiver.

Please ask yourself, as my sister did, if you have done all you can to help yourself. We, too, need to listen to our own soul… where the Answer is…

Corry Roach’s website, www.ByGraceofMourning.ca offers personal and professional insight and education into the grief journey for those who mourn, from professionals to the bereaved and all who love them. Although the main focus is bereavement, loss of loved ones (or parts of ourselves) to terminal illness, dementia, aging, divorce/relationships/addictions are also discussed, as well as how to offer support. Grief resolution within ourselves is imperative, enriching our lives with personal empowerment as we work toward a life of spiritual meaning and inner peace.

Julian Kalmar and Rick Beneteau want to know if you've got what it takes to step up and be a leader in the new world transformation. CLICK HERE to find out.

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