Allow Natural Death

Archive for August, 2013

Not much feels good

Not much feels good about watching the way frail elders are cared for at the end of their lives. I have been watching and listening to the experience of frail elders and their loved ones for more than twenty years now. As I became more aware of issues surrounding hospital and nursing home practices – I became angry and sad. As the years went by, I worked within a large health care organization to seek change in policies and procedures. I led discussions, promoted patient-centered practices, brought front line staff together to address their growing concerns for what they were being asked to do when caring for patients. I sat in meetings where topics of end of life care were discussed ad nauseum with no real change in bringing comfort and dignity to frail elders. I was called “courageous” by my colleagues. I met nurses who were afraid to speak openly about what they observed. I was not popular with those in charge of  folks like myself and soon it became clear that my  participation in the organization was undesirable. I suppose I became a little too courageous.

But I didn’t feel courageous. I felt defeated and sick in my heart and my soul. I left the front line of nursing more than three years ago now. I am just beginning to see the positive nature of this change in my life. My interest in matters involving frail elders has continued as I wrote more than 70,000 words here explaining concepts of allowing natural death. I read everything I could find, but most importantly, I listen to stories of real people. And it is clear that suffering of frail elders continues and loved ones are robbed of the memory of a peaceful passing by hospital policies and procedures. Stories of “unwanted” care perpetrated on those who have prepared Living Wills that are not honored has brought me to tears. I have only grown more sad and angry.

I have said that this is work that will not let me go. I have been encouraged by many who live the stories, on the frontlines of health care, that  I only hear about now. I understand why it is not safe for them to speak openly about these topics when employed by institutions that provide care to elders. But I am no longer in the employ of any organization. It is safe for me to speak. So I will. Because still after all these years of looking listening and learning about frail elders at the end of life…not much feels good.