Commentary - November 1st, 2013
9:36 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Death. Talk about it.

Hello.  I’m Maurika Wells, Administrator for Hospice of Missoula.  This is my 5 minutes and I am going to title it: DEATH.  TALK ABOUT IT.  Picture a black billboard, and in big white bold letters… DEATH. TALK ABOUT IT

Last week I watched a fantastic TED talk titled “LET’S TALK ABOUT DYING” by Peter Saul (I highly recommend this talk!) and in it he says... “How we die, lives on in the minds of everybody who survives us.”  Think about that. 

How WE die.  Lives on, in the minds of everybody who survives us.

This makes me want to die well.  To die beautifully: with grace and with strength.  I want my children, my friends and my family to be aware of my wishes, to understand – even though it will hurt – that I am dying.  I don’t want to be in much pain – although I could tolerate some.  I want to be at home, with the people I love around me.  I want to know – that I won’t be alone. I want to know that someone will be there to help me and to help my family: to understand.  To reassure us that the strange and difficult things happening to my body are normal. I want to be in control.

But enough about me.  What do YOU want?

Consider it! 

We certainly don’t wait until we are 9 months pregnant to learn about the birthing process.  Can you imagine?  Someone showing up in labor – about to give birth without any care or education - screaming: “Help!  Someone!… walk me through this “having a baby” thing here?”  What a MISERABLE experience that would be.  Trying to make any thoughtful choices about this process when you are in pain, terrified, possibly alone, and your body is trying to push a HUMAN out!  No.  Even with expert care and education, giving birth is a tremendous, and beautiful process.   So is dying.

I am not the first person to compare giving birth and dying.  They are both transitions.  Both are natural, spiritual even.  Both have medical implications.  Both can encompass some suffering.  One staggering difference is that dying is not optional.  Another difference is : we RARELY talk about or witness how someone dies.

Here are some facts to think about.  We are going to be MYTH BUSTERS today.  

Roughly 80% of us want to die at home, and only 20% do.

Only 1 out of 10 people over 80 will die of cancer.

Due to incredible medical advances, most of us die because of multiple organ failure which will likely land us in a hospital ICU.

We experience 7x more stress when dying in a hospital ICU than anywhere else.

Still, about 1 in 5 people die there.

Sudden death is very rare, only 6% (hit by a car, heart attack while sleeping, etc)

A meager 10% of us will survive CPR if our heart has stopped.

And if you are over 85 that drops significantly to 3%.

80% of Medicare dollars are spent in the last 6 months of life.

That’s a lot of bad news. 

Good news?

Not everyone will think this is good news maybe, but again…

Dying is a natural, normal, “healthy” thing – and you do have choices.

There is help – experts even, who can provide care and education to you - so you can avoid a scenario like the “9 month pregnant woman learning about birthing for the first time” one we talked about earlier.  Hospice isn’t a scary word.  It is a gift.  Hospice can make dying a LOT less frightening by shedding light on the process and providing support and comfort to you.

These facts may be the good news you are looking for.

Hospice provides end of life care and education to you, in your home.

Your home can be assisted living, independent living, skilled nursing, a residential home, an apartment, a bus, a tent, even a hospital.

End of Life care is a benefit of Medicare, so if you receive Medicare there is no additional cost to you to receive hospice.  You have earned this benefit.

Private Insurance, Medicaid, and Veterans Benefits also cover hospice care at 100%.

You can live for months - even years while receiving hospice care.

Once you receive hospice care, you can change your mind – and seek a cure if you would like.  Then, when you are ready, you can receive hospice care again.

Hospices provide emotional support to families for 13 months after their loved one has passed.

There is FREE education about hospice – and they will come to you, just call.

You don’t have to be alone.  You don’t have to be in pain. 

You can be in control.

Use your voice.  Ask for what you want.  Celebrate the choices you have.

… and that’s DEATH.  TALK ABOUT IT.