The Gift of End-of-Life Planning

by Guest Blogger, Caroline Stevens, RN, MSW Most people say they want to die at home. Yet most actually die in a hospital—many of them in intensive care. Why does this happen? Every week or so there is another article about end of life issues. As our population ages there is added interest in how to die well. Some may read about the end of life, talk about it casually, but most fail to do much about it! Younger people don’t realize the importance of creating a plan “just in… View Full Post

Burying More Than Dad

“Will you come bury me?” The voice on the phone was my elderly father, suddenly reaching out from Germany, some nine time zones away. It was 6 AM on a Sunday morning here in Seattle, where I was settled in for a long summer’s nap. “Hang on a minute, let me see if I can find my shovel!” I answered, always trying to be the classy comedian. My father was approaching the age of 93 at the time, finding himself all alone after multiple divorces. He and I had serious… View Full Post

“Living Deeply, Dying Well” – What Does That Really Mean?

Many people seriously prepare for life, from the joy of birth to baby steps and ultimate maturity. It seems to be the end-of-life that eludes us, or scares us, or disturbs us. Every friend we lose, every trip we take, every sharp memory of a death with which we awake, seems to encourage us to procrastinate or put off thoughts of our own ending. For those of you who have seen the film or completed a Speaking of Dying/End-of-Life Planning Workshop or who have engaged in some other successful personal… View Full Post

A Medical Power of Attorney—the Star of Your Show

We all know, deep inside, that our life will come to an end. Few of us want to think about death or terminal illness. And yet if you want your life’s ending to be as you wish, you must be sure you have a clearly designated Medical Power of Attorney. This designated individual is sometimes known as a Health Care Agent or surrogate, or POA for Health Care. Who would speak for you if decisions had to be made about your care should you suffer  a stroke or  heart attack… View Full Post

End of Life Choices

How Life Ends: Death is Inevitable. A bad death is not.” The end of our life is natural and inevitable. Few of us, however, come to terms with this at a time when we are still capable of planning for a good end to our lives and sharing those plans with others. Supporting and encouraging this planning process has been my mission for many years and is the underlying reason why I produced the film, Speaking of Dying. Imagine my surprise when I discovered our Speaking of Dying mission was… View Full Post

Death With Dignity

Making end-of-life decisions was the topic of last summer’s episode “The Party” on the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Babe, a treasured friend of Grace and Frankie played by Estelle Parsons, is experiencing a resurgence of her cancer, and it is devastating her body. Instead of taking the course of further treatment, as her friends suggest to her, Babe decides to take matters in her own hands and determine the course of her untimely end. Babe decides to die as she has lived, by her… View Full Post

Dying Well

In Speaking of Dying Workshops, facilitators ask participants to envision what “dying well” might look like to them. This exercise comes after they have already learned about the importance of having a Health Care Power of Attorney; have listened to stories, and shared information about current medical options and end-of-life resources; have learned about “the real work of dying” (reviewing your life, asking for and giving forgiveness, saying goodbye and “I love you” to family and/or friends); and after writing  down their wishes and discussing them with others. Only then… View Full Post

Why End of Life Planning Matters

The process of end-of-life planning matters because too many people in our country, especially seniors, are dying in ways they would never have wanted — tethered to machines, in impersonal ICUs or in nursing homes. In large part, this happens because they and their family members or health care agents could not discuss end-of-life planning ahead of time. Yes, it is hard to talk about death ahead of time. When one is in good health, it feels unnecessary. But without such conversations, prolonged, medically challenged “futile care” endings can be… View Full Post


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