Rain
46°
Rain
Hi 52° | Lo 44°

Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association’s Dying To Talk group opens the door to conversations about end-of-life

  • Linda DiCicco (second from left) listens to advice during the Dying To Chat group chat on Wednesday evening, April 23, 2014 at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord. DiCicco's husband passed away suddenly two years ago. She came to the group to try and work out some of the questions and emotions she's had since his death. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Linda DiCicco (second from left) listens to advice during the Dying To Chat group chat on Wednesday evening, April 23, 2014 at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord. DiCicco's husband passed away suddenly two years ago. She came to the group to try and work out some of the questions and emotions she's had since his death.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Wendy Jensen keeps her hands folded under the table at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore during the Dying To Talk group chat on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Jensen is a homeopathic veterinarian that joined the group to talk about the transition between life and death that she frequently experiences in her practice. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Wendy Jensen keeps her hands folded under the table at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore during the Dying To Talk group chat on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Jensen is a homeopathic veterinarian that joined the group to talk about the transition between life and death that she frequently experiences in her practice.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Laurie Farmer (left), the vice president of hospice with the Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association, listens to Wendy Jensen speak during the Dying To Talk group chat on Wednesday evening, April 23, 2014 at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Laurie Farmer (left), the vice president of hospice with the Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association, listens to Wendy Jensen speak during the Dying To Talk group chat on Wednesday evening, April 23, 2014 at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kathy Perron, a hospice volunteer, listens as people share their stories during the Dying To Talk group chat at True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord on Wednesday night, April 23, 2014. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Kathy Perron, a hospice volunteer, listens as people share their stories during the Dying To Talk group chat at True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord on Wednesday night, April 23, 2014.
    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Brenda Murray (center) talks about some of her experiences in delivering memorial services as a faith practitioner during the Dying To Talk group chat at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's bookstore on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Brenda Murray (center) talks about some of her experiences in delivering memorial services as a faith practitioner during the Dying To Talk group chat at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's bookstore on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Linda DiCicco (second from left) listens to advice during the Dying To Chat group chat on Wednesday evening, April 23, 2014 at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord. DiCicco's husband passed away suddenly two years ago. She came to the group to try and work out some of the questions and emotions she's had since his death. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Wendy Jensen keeps her hands folded under the table at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore during the Dying To Talk group chat on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Jensen is a homeopathic veterinarian that joined the group to talk about the transition between life and death that she frequently experiences in her practice. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Laurie Farmer (left), the vice president of hospice with the Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association, listens to Wendy Jensen speak during the Dying To Talk group chat on Wednesday evening, April 23, 2014 at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Kathy Perron, a hospice volunteer, listens as people share their stories during the Dying To Talk group chat at True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord on Wednesday night, April 23, 2014. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Brenda Murray (center) talks about some of her experiences in delivering memorial services as a faith practitioner during the Dying To Talk group chat at the True Brew Barista inside of Gibson's bookstore on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

If you knew you would die tomorrow, what music would you want to hear today?

It’s a big question, and it stumped just about everyone at the table in the far corner of True Brew Cafe at Gibson’s Bookstore on Wednesday night.

The six women had more to say on other topics as they came up, including who they would want to speak at their memorial services, and what they think happens when we die.

They drank coffee, nibbled on double-chocolate cookies and explored something few in American culture take the time to contemplate – death.

“It’s such a taboo topic in our society, but we will all die. It is the one thing that we all have in common,” said Laurie Farmer, vice president of hospice services for the Concord Regional Visiting Nurses Association, which began holding Dying To Talk meetings monthly in August.

“People don’t want to think about the uncomfortable,” said Bridget Kelley Nafranowicz, who attended the talk.

“When your dreams and wishes haven’t been fulfilled, they think they have more time. Or, they’re disappointed. Everyone is expecting things from themselves, and they can’t expect an end, because they haven’t lived up to what in their minds they were supposed to do,” she said.

In the face of such a weighty topic, “we wanted to create an informal gathering, a space to share questions, concerns, thoughts and experiences around death and dying,” Farmer said. The goal is “that talking about your own thoughts around death can actually inform your life, helps people live more fully.”

The group Wednesday night explored whether they thought that was true, whether acknowledging that the end would come made them appreciative of what they have in the present or bitter that they would someday not have it anymore.

They talked about finding comfort, and accepting forgiveness from loved ones who aren’t around to give it. They talked about admitting weakness and accepting help, and how that can sometimes be a gift.

No one was right, and no one was wrong.

The topics were chosen by Farmer and facilitator Patrice Ficken, but they let the conversation go where the participants wanted to. Some months, they’ve held guided conversations about estate planning, or writing living wills, or advanced directives.

How prepared are we?

Dying to Talk is modeled on a European program called Death Cafe. In America, there’s also Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death, and Death Over Dinner, and a host of other organized conversations for people interested in teasing out their own feelings about death and making plans for the inevitable.

The majority – 72 percent – of American adults told researchers from the Pew Research Center last year that they have given at least some thought to their wishes for medical treatment at the end of their lives, more than the first time the survey was conducted, in 1990.

About a third of people surveyed said they had written down their preferences, double the number found in 1990.

“We’re seeing a greater acceptance that people need to be thinking of this,” said Jon Radulovic, spokesman for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Ten years ago, when the organization posted online guides to advanced-care planning and state-specific advanced directives about end-of-life care, they were the only resource available.

In the 10 years since, 2 million copies have been downloaded or requested, Radulovic said.

Perceptions, options change

Two generations ago, a lot more people died at home and died suddenly. Now, Radulovic said, medicine has advanced so people are surviving longer, and have more medical decisions and options.

“Our medical science has changed the profile of dying,” he said.

“You also have, I think, a generation of baby boomers who have come of age, and one thing we know about baby boomers is they like options. They like to think about, ‘What do I want.’ ”

A growing percentage of Americans want to use any and all available medical treatment, according to the Pew survey. More than a third of adults said they would tell their doctors to do everything possible to keep them alive – even in dire circumstances, such as having a disease with no hope of improvement and experiencing a great deal of pain. In 1990, by comparison, 28 percent expressed that view.

And that’s fine with palliative care specialists, who battle the perception that their job is to persuade people to stop treatment.

“This is about a conversation. This is not about me coming in and telling a family how it’s going to be,” said Brent Richardson, a nurse practitioner in palliative and critical care at Concord Hospital.

“There are times where they make choices I wouldn’t make for myself or my loved ones. Sometimes it’s because of a belief system, sometimes it’s way too sudden and the family hasn’t had time to wrap their mind around the fact that their loved one is going to die. They might not be what I would choose, but I respect those choices.”

Wanting intensive care to stop, or wanting all means possible tried are equally important wishes to communicate before the situation comes up, Radulovic said.

But as important as he feels the official advanced directive or living will paperwork might be, the point is to communicate your wishes, he said.

“As hard as it can be, especially talking to older loved ones, once you’ve started, and gotten over the first uncomfortable hurdle,” he said, “a lot of people find a lot of relief in knowing they’ve had those conversations.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.