LD 1313, An Act to Enact the Maine Death with Dignity Act, was introduced on March 19, 2019. The bill language builds on the
Dying in DC? Don’t get your hopes up just yet.
Many are not aware that the citizens of Washington DC do not enjoy the same representation in local and federal government that the 50 states enjoy. Because of that, these guys (who are not affected by the law and who do not have a relationship to the people of Washington DC) are able to exert their personal opinions and beliefs over the desires and due process of the city council and local government.
Presently, six states enjoy an end-of-life freedom having the option to obtain medical aid-in-dying if they qualify and their physicians are willing to support them. Colorado recently enacted a Death with Dignity law by the choice of the people through referendum. That measure passed by a 65% vote, reflecting what most polls see: about two-thirds of the voting population believe a qualified, dying patient should have the option to obtain medical-aid-in-dying from their physician if the doc is willing to support their request.
The attempt by federal government to intervene in Washington DC’s case may have farther-reaching implications.
One of the federal representatives attempting to block the law in Washington DC happens to be a physician whose personal beliefs are in opposition. So he thinks he can exert that influence over the folks in Washington DC, even if their Washington DC physician has no problem supporting them. Go figure.
Guest writer Jackie Waters shares her insight after the recent loss of her mother-in-law:
Tips for Seniors Coping With The Loss Of A Spouse
Photo via Pixabay
Losing someone is one of the most difficult things we go through in a lifetime, and coping with that loss can take weeks, months, or years. Your spouse was your life partner and best friend. You saw them each morning and night so this sudden change is jolting. No one deals with it in the same way, and that’s okay. Grief affects us all differently and can take a toll on sleep, eating habits, mood, and our ability to perform daily tasks.
For those who have recently suffered a loss, there are some ways to deal with the effects that will help on the road to recovery. The key is to remember that there is no time limit; grief might affect you for a long time, although the pain will eventually lessen.
Be easy on yourself
Try not to compare your loss or your reaction to it to anyone else’s. Everyone copes differently and there is no specific amount of time that you are expected to grieve. You might begin to come to terms with it after a few weeks and move on toward healing, while others might take a year or more. Both are perfectly normal, so allow yourself to feel what you feel and don’t place pressure on any of it. Take your time. You may find that family and friends are pushing you to sort through your spouse’s belongings, but it is okay to put it off for a reasonable amount of time until you are ready. However, once you start, commit to it and get it done so you don’t have to revisit this painful experience more than once.
Expect to be emotional
Especially during the first couple of weeks after facing a loss, you will likely be very emotional, or your feelings may be erratic. You might experience anger, sadness, depression, denial, guilt, or any combination of these. This is normal, and the best way to combat those feelings is to deal with them one by one. Are you angry because you feel your loved one left you alone? Write him or her a letter and get those feelings out. Even if they can’t read it, it will give you some release – and possibly closure – to vent.
Don’t close yourself off
You may feel like distancing yourself from others, but now is the time to have help nearby. Allowing people into your life is a comfort and you’ll be able to talk about what happened, which can help you find acceptance a little more quickly. You might also consider seeking the assistance of a counselor or therapist who is trained to help those who are grieving, or even joining a grief support group for seniors. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone, keep a journal and write in it daily.
Take care of yourself
It’s all too easy to forget to take care of yourself when dealing with the loss of someone you were close to, but it’s important to keep up your routine as much as possible. Sleep when you’re tired, eat balanced meals, and try to get in daily exercise, even if it’s just to take the dog for a walk. Perhaps you and your spouse split the daily chores, or one of you was responsible for cooking while the other maintained the home. Maybe your mobility has significantly diminished, making everyday tasks difficult or even impossible. Bring in help if needed whether it is hiring help or having a friend or family member assist with meal prep and cleaning. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Find healthy ways to cope, such as being creative – painting, gardening, writing, playing music – and stay away from alcohol if you feel it might help you numb your feelings. It’s understandable to want to push the sadness away, but repressing it with substances will only make things worse.
Get a little help from a furry friend
Animals are wonderful companions, but they’re also extremely helpful to people who are experiencing grief, anxiety, stress, and depression. Spending time with a dog or cat can be very therapeutic and could help you get through this tough time a little more smoothly as they are always happy to be around you no matter what, and a quick cuddle is always close by.
Palliative Medicine and Death with Dignity Co-Mingle
I have a lot of sadness around writing this. I’ve decided to officially resign from the volunteer rolls of the hospice organization I’ve served with in my community. This does not come as an easy decision. Truthfully, I’ve not been in a position to volunteer for some time now anyway. More importantly, I’m often reminded and all too aware of how my name and my points of view are considered by some in palliative and hospice medicine to be too controversial.
I know that some in the hospice community believe I am “anti-hospice.” Thankfully, those who actually know me and my work also know that I am a strong proponent of palliative care, of which hospice is an integral part.
I find the highest value in palliative and hospice care.
In fact, some of the richest experiences I’ve ever had in my life have come from interacting with the dying and those who care for them. I don’t want to sound cliché, but some of my best friends are hospice nurses.
What troubles me is this: some hospice folks are unwilling to discuss certain dying matters. And others want to but can’t, for fear of losing their jobs. It seems to me that folks who work in hospice should feel fully informed on Death with Dignity laws, so they will know how to respond to patients who have questions. Believe me, even in states where there is no law permitting end-of-life prescriptions, patients still ask about that.
The fact that over 90% of the patients who choose to pursue an end-of-life prescription are also enrolled in and receiving palliative care and hospice services up to the time of their deaths is clear evidence to me that all end of life options are important.
Not “either-or, but “both-and.”
I know these tools and the people who provide them can live and serve in harmony. The average length of stay in Oregon hospice is over 40 days. Here in Maine, it’s about 18. The Oregon statistic speaks to me of a vital, viable service being offered that does support quality of life and give needed time to people to feel as complete as possible in their lives before they die. In my mind and my heart, the end objective is to meet the needs of the one who is dying in a purposeful, compassionate, and open-minded way that honors who they are and what has meant the most to them.
I believe in dialogue when there is controversy.
I’ve dearly enjoyed my time as a hospice volunteer and I will continue to promote hospice and palliative medicine as a means to achieve quality of life as long as possible.
I will also continue to devote my time and energy to bringing visibility and awareness to how Death with Dignity laws work and how they are in complete harmony with the compassionate efforts of all end-of-life workers and caregivers to support peace, comfort, and respect to patient choice. I believe in discussing studied research on this issue. And I believe this education is important.
Valerie Lovelace, Executive Director, It’s My Death
I am inspired by the ever-growing network of Maine’s death-conscious citizens. Whether it’s downsizing and getting one’s affairs in order, handling our own dead, Death Cafe discussions on every mortality topic under the sun, funeral consumer advocacy, or enthusiastic activism in politics, Maine’s mortality-friendly grass roots are spreading faster than dandelions or Creeping Charlie.
If there’s one thing Mainers are good at, it’s being independent. That’s why we fly a flag in the state sporting the motto “Dirigo” or “I lead.”
Want to get involved? Do you believe dying people should have independent choice? Want to get conservative religion’s influence out of politics and out of your end-of-life?
See this simple, single page to get actively involved:
That’s it. That’s all there is. Get involved. Your death may depend on it.
Maine Death with Dignity Advocate Dies
Rebecca Vanwormer was an avid supporter of the 2015 Maine Death with Dignity bill, LD1270. She was a community activist in other ways, too; she brought Christmas back to Millinocket just before she died. Her family and community lost a wonderful human being yesterday.
I felt privileged to meet and spend time with Becky in June. She asked me to record her
testimony. That’s a powerful thing when someone literally hands you the end of their life, wanting you to put it on tape. She inspired me with her courage and raw honesty. She wanted Maine lawmakers to understand that having a safe-guarded end-of-life option like Death with Dignity is really important, because dying is a personal, private process. You know, sharing a personal story like that takes guts. Sharing it publicly take a LOT of guts.
It’s been quite difficult for all of us to see her like this
I can’t begin to imagine her experience. I received an email from Ken, Becky’s husband, a couple of days ago to let me know she was “declining rapidly.” He wrote:
“She has had family and friends visiting her, although I’m not sure how much she knows as to what’s happening, and it’s been quite difficult for all of us to see her like this. She’s still been able to say hi and wave and occasionally say I love you and good-bye.”
“It’s been absolutely heart-breaking to see her go from this strong, beautiful, energetic, vibrant woman with her beautiful voice and amazing smile to just a shell of her former self in days, going through all the very things she feared most from the cancer that has taken over her body. Not being able to communicate her needs, to be totally helpless and have to have myself, her mom, and the hospice nurses wash her and change her, to be bed ridden, to have her skin feel like it’s on fire and itchy all over.”
“All the things she wanted to prevent if only Maine’s legislature had passed the aid-in-dying law. I hope her story will help convince more lawmakers to change their minds and pass this law so others with similar situations don’t have to suffer, both the dying and their loved ones.”
I’m so sorry, Ken. I know Becky felt that her life and death would have greater meaning if the video helped others, especially our Maine lawmakers, understand more about aid-in-dying. I’m sharing her testimony and her story, because people need to hear that. I want people to know she understood that she was going to die, and she met that with a palpable sense of grace and acceptance.
IMD will continue educating in Maine to pass a safe law. Rest in peace, Becky.
Click here for Becky’s Christmas Story: East Millinocket woman loses to cancer at 43
Elections are Over and Guess What? You’re Still Going to Die.
Well, there we have it. Although there may have been times when all the campaigning, positioning, bashing, and political banter sounded like a matter of life and death, truly it never came close to being a matter of life and death.
“I’ll just DIE if [pick a candidate] becomes president.” Nope. Something else will kill you, but it won’t be the election results.
“It’ll kill me if [pick a candidate] ends up being my Senator.” Truly, it won’t kill you.
I don’t think I can live with [you guessed it: pick a candidate] as my [name any office you want].
Whether you like it or not, you’ll go on living with it, or kicking and screaming with it, but it won’t mean your demise. Something will, someday it will, maybe sooner rather than later it will…but there isn’t much about a campaign (at least not in the United States) that will kill you. Not yet, anyway. And I hope we never go there.
What does kill you? Studies have shown that the absolute leading cause of death is being born. Life is what kills you. Being on the planet in a meat suit–THAT is what kills you.
The truth is, we’ve had good presidents and bad presidents, We’ve had winners and losers in political power, and in the end it’s human resilience that prevails. It’s loving kindness, compassion, and wholeheartedness. It’s choosing consciously and purposefully a balanced way of being in the world, knowing at the cellular level that your personal timepiece is winding down, one in-breath-out-breath at a time.
I love the medical terms for in-breath (inspire) and out-breath (expire). Even as we inhale, our body systems charge and renew, inspired with sweet air–some say our first food. And exhaling, or expiring, facilitates a just-as-sweet letting go of that which cannot sustain oxygen breathers.
This cycle is actually one of transformation on a grander scale. The atoms entering your lungs have moved in and out of every other lung on the planet, since the beginning of lungs. Indeed, through the skies, the waters, the plants and the soil, and every other form on the planet.
Can you imagine it?
Sit somewhere quietly in a beautiful place, and breathe the planet. Allow yourself to know you are being nurtured by this entire planet and everything living on it right now, as well as anything that has ever lived on it.
The in-breath you take right now once inspired Einstein, Attila the Hun, and the Dinosaurs. Through all beings living right now (yes, even through Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton). It’s been through all beings long extinct.
And so, too, you nurture with your out-breathe in exchange. Your breath creates.
The thoughts you have or the words you carry in your mouth float out upon your breath into the world. What do you deliver on your breath? What are you creating? What do you receive as you drink the air around you?
It isn’t always easy to hold that kind of balance, I know.
But it’s a good goal to embrace. One in-breath-out-breath at a time.
Indian physician and homeopath, Rajan Sankaran, speaks about his homeopathic practice, modern medicine, and the recent concerted effort to discredit homeopathy as a viable healthcare option, despite the fact that homeopathy is the second most commonly used medicine in the world.
Homeopathy at the end-of-life is safe, chemical free, and can make it possible for patients to remain alert and aware, even up to their final breath.