For our final process reflection, I’d like to touch on something we only started talking about in the final few weeks of class. Right before Thanksgiving, professor Guseva challenged us to have our own version of the Conversation Project with our families. Honestly, I didn’t think I would actually do it, but the night before thanksgiving it happened and suddenly I understood something I had never quite understood before. My Mom, Dad, sister and I were lounging in my parents’ room after a big dinner with lots of elderly family members and I spontaneously decided to tell them that we had been learning about a movement that was encouraging people to talk with their families about the level of care each member would want in the even that the other members had to make a decision about the life of their loved one.
The attitude that we have around death, and death denying itself is so powerful that my sister, who received a masters in public health last year, tried shut it down before anyone could even answer. And then my Dad responded that he wouldn’t want us to go to extreme measures to resuscitate him if it would mean his quality of life would be poor. To that, my Mom, half kidding, said “Well we’ll see about that…I’ll make the decision if I think otherwise.”
And then I realized that in my incredibly tight-knit, but practical, well-educated family, we love each other too much to have this conversation, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Death denying goes beyond the doctor-patient setting or the patient-self dynamic; we try to protect our loved ones so much that we’re unwilling to even consider the possibility of death. From a more cynical point of view, it’s the only guarantee we have in this life and yet we cannot accept it even when we know we need to talk about it. This moment really made me realize that if my own family can’t handle this, we need to reconstruct the cultural boundary around death, and we need to do so immediately.
This class has been enlightening and has inspired me to think of health care, doctors, hospitals and our systems in the United States in new ways. One interesting thing I want to share relates to the topic of discussing end of life care with family members. My mom is an elderly care lawyer so she is around people in this type of situation every day at work. I haven’t ever really talked to her about end of life care before.
Over this thanksgiving break my grandparents and my stepfather’s parents both were visiting and staying in our house. One morning, I walked into the kitchen to get breakfast and I overheard my mom talking to my step dad telling him that he needed to have this conversation with his parents while they were visiting. She had printed out forms that my step dad and his parents needed to sign, which would give him authority over making decisions about their care, if and when the time came. I stopped what I was doing to listen and watch. My step dad seemed anxious and acted as if he was trying to avoid the conversation. However, my mom eventually convinced him that it was the necessary thing to do.
Later that day I talked to my mom about what she did that morning and I told her how we had just talked about that material in this class. She told me that it was part of her every day duties to inform people about end of life care decisions and she always encourages people to have these discussions with their families, especially on holidays such as Thanksgiving! I thought it was interesting how timing worked out and I wanted to share this story. To rap up my final post I would like to say thank you for a great class, I’ve learned a lot and would recommend this class to any premedical student.
Imagining a family member dying is something nobody wants to do. However, death is one of the few things that is guaranteed in the world. Many times, a person’s loved one will die or be put on life support unexpectedly, and it is the duty of their closest loved one to make all the big decisions… whether to resuscitate, pull the plug, or perform a risky procedure. This stressful decisions can be alleviated by having an “end of life” talk in which you talk to family members and loved ones about what action they would prefer to be taken if they are ever in such a dire situation. Many families are encouraged to have this talk, and my question is, what are the benefits to having this talk? Are there consequences? When is the best time to talk about this?
In “Tip-Toeing Towards Conversations About Death,” the article pushes towards starting to make preparations about the way you want to die. Although these conversations can be uncomfortable, it is really important to have a health proxy to be able to speak for you when you can speak for yourself, and to make sure your wishes are fulfilled. A new state law urges that doctors start these conversations about death by providing pamphlets to the patients, but there are no required forms to fill. Additionally, several state members think these conversations should also be initiated outside of the hospital, in places where people feel more comfortable opening up. Continue reading “Tip-Toeing Towards Conversations About Death”
In the textbook, it states that “historically, nursing homes residents overwhelmingly were white” and that the “usage of nursing homes by African Americans and Hispanics increased significantly from 2000 to 2007.” This got me thinking about about the Asian population and I was wondering why aren’t there more Asians in nursing homes? I think the reason for this is because of the mindset that most Asians have. In Asian culture, family is very important, especially when it comes to elders. It is expected that children are suppose to take care of their parents themselves and not leave them in a stranger’s care.
Continue reading “Asians in Nursing Homes”
Patients are wheeled into hospitals day after day. The young, the old, the once healthy, the always ill. With present day technologies, those who are just steps away from death are able to be kept alive. But how many actually want to be?
Continue reading “Mouth to Mouth”