By Bethany Burgess
Hospice of Anchorage 

Conversations at the end of life

 

June 1, 2020



One of the most challenging areas of communication our society still faces today is communication at the end of life. Some of the most important decisions and opportunities are found to have come from end of life conversations. However, many still seem to be missing out on the opportunity.

Studies show that end of life communication provides an opportunity for an individual who is dying to have their voice heard and their needs met. In addition, studies show that effective end of life conversations lead to better quality end of life and much less artificial life support causing prolonged suffering.

End of life conversations can be anything from “I love you” to sharing the most important aspects of your relationship with one another. Loved ones often have the opportunity to find closure and know that their loved one’s wishes are respected. 

Themes of end of life communication that were identified in a recent study showed topics such as Messages of Love, Messages of Identity, Spirituality, Everyday Routine Interactions, Difficult Relationship Talk and End of Life Wishes. Each of these themes were identified within a study of 152 participants who were facing end of life (Generous, M.A., Keeley, M.P., 2014). The study’s results give further understanding of why providing end of life communication opportunities are so important for everyone involved. Conversations during this time are found to be some of the most powerful and long-lasting memories for the surviving loved ones.  


But, what about those who can no longer verbally communicate? 

A challenge many individuals face when discussing end of life communication is one that involves individuals who can no longer verbally communicate and have often also lost the use of their hands. Some known situations where this may be the case include those with ALS, LIS, Parkinson’s or PSP to name a few. While these diagnoses do cause more challenges in terms of communication, there are still many options to consider to allow for these individuals to engage in conversations about their needs, wishes, identity and love for family and friends. Such situations may call for resources such as Vocal Eyes, UcanTalk app, or Dynavox, to name a few. Regardless of the challenge loved ones may face, the effort to help an individual have their voice heard is always worth the time.

For more information, resources and to further this conversation, please visit our website at http://www.hospiceofanchorage.org and view the End of Life Communication presentation. In this presentation, we discuss a few of the unique difficulties and privileges that many individuals encounter as their loved ones face communication challenges and end of life conversations.      


Do you know someone who is living with a life-limiting illness in Anchorage? Hospice of Anchorage may be able to help. Hospice of Anchorage helps individuals and families prepare for and live well with serious life-limiting illness, dying and grief. We consist of a team of registered nurses, social workers and volunteers who come along side you and your loved one to support you through this journey. Please contact us at (907) 561-5322 or visit our website at http://www.hospiceofanchorage.org for information. 

Bethany Burgess is the Hospice of Anchorage Clinical Director.

 
 

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