Mindfulness At the End of Life.
As Atul Gawande’s best-selling book Being Mortal points out, we’ve come a long way in treating illnesses, managing pain, and helping people live longer. However, we still haven’t figured out how to deal gracefully with death and dying.
Funding for End-of-Life Care
Our current system constrains choice by providing nearly unlimited access to and payment for high‐intensity life‐prolonging treatment while providing scant resources for living in the community, which is the top priority for most older adults. In our final moments, as we are dying, we want a human face on medicine. We don’t want to just have a technician at our bedside.
For this, we need a fundamental reallocation of funds. Currently, funding goes to implementing burdensome high‐intensity treatment. Services that support the ability of older adults to live in their communities for as long as possible are under-funded.
Whether end of life is experienced gracefully or in a stressful way revolves around relationships. As writer Sean Illing says in his article ‘What the Living Can Learn From the Dying, two questions in particular stand out: ‘Am I loved?’ and ‘Did I love well?’
The Power of Presence in Caregivers and the Dying
Presence helps us develop the equanimity that often facilitates calmness in a very chaotic situation. If you are privileged enough to be present at someone’s death, stay aware of what really is important to that person. For some, it’s relationships. For others, it’s about looking back on their lives and seeing what legacy they’re leaving behind. For others still, it’s about discovering a kindness or forgiveness that they were looking for their whole lives, a compassion for self and/or others.
Homeopathy in Hospice
Homeopathic medicine can be of benefit in palliative care. The need for strong pharmaceuticals is often reduced or even precluded with homeopathy . Homeopathic medicines help without stupefying or dulling the patient. Nor do they cause harmful side effects like constipation or depressed breathing.
Homeopathy compliments mindfulness in facilitating a “good death“. It can also be useful in assisting the grieving, those experiencing the loss of a loved one, with no harmful side-effects. From personal experience, when my son died, a homeopathic medicine called Ignatia was particularly useful in helping me navigate and facilitate acceptance during the most heart-wrenching times.
On another occasion, I remember one evening being called to intensive care by a patient whose father was in a coma. He had been on life support for a week. On arrival, the only observation I had was that the patients lips and fingertips were discolored blue and cold to touch. Yet, though unconscious, he kept uncovering himself each time a sheet was draped over him. At one moment, I overheard his wife express the following wish; “If only I could have one more month with him…”
I gave him Carbo veg, the homeopathic preparation of vegetable charcoal. Although the picture was clear, there was no response, and I left the hospital filled with doubt. To my pleasant surprise, the following morning I received a call from my patient. Her father had woken up, was hungry, and wanted to shower. By the following day, he felt good enough to be dismissed.
I didn’t hear again from the family until a month later. My patient called to inform me that her father had just died of a massive heart attack. I couldn’t help but recalling his wife’s wish, to share one more month of life with him.