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Difficult Discussion On Dying Can Be Helped By Web Resources

Almost nobody wants to have “The Conversation.”

85 years
(Photo credit: jaded one)

Talking to an older relative, whether it’s a mother, father or sibling, or a friend about death is a burdensome task most people put off until, of course, it’s too late to have anything at all to discuss. It’s probably at that point most wish they had found the strength of will and the courage to address the topic a long time ago.

Fortunately, in the Internet age there exist sites that can help, if only a little, to push The Conversation along, notes a recent item on the website of The New York Times.

“You can log onto the Conversation Project, for example,” author Paula Span wrote. “Established two years ago by the former syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman, it will guide you through discussions of fears, values, medical options. Or you can turn to Prepare, created last year by a geriatrician, Dr. Rebecca Sudore of the University of California, San Francisco. Readers here have also recommended the Five Wishes document. And to be sure doctors follow your or your relatives’ wishes precisely, a P.O.L.S.T. form is your strongest protection when frailty or illness becomes advanced.”

These sites and forms help, Span notes, but she goes on to point out that The Conversation still has to take place.

“But then what? There is still scant discussion, except from experienced hospice staff members, about what to expect when death comes very close. How do you deal with pain, everyone’s great fear? What is dyspnea (answer: shortness of breath), and what can be done to ease it? How is palliative care different from hospice care, and which do you need? What are the actual signs, physical and emotional, of approaching death? Families and friends need to know these things, especially when they are trying to help a loved one die at home, where most people say they want to die, although only a minority do.”

The Internet once again rides to the rescue, according to the writer, in the form of a “new web resource from the National Institutes of Health aims to help fill this gap. NIHSeniorHealth.gov already covers an array of topics of interest to older adults and their caregivers, including exercise, diet, long-term care, drugs and management of common diseases.”

“Its latest module addresses the end of life. Developed by the National Institute of Nursing Research, the section answers questions about death and dying. I found it candid and comprehensive — it takes on subjects from opiates to autopsies — and well-designed for older users, with brief, clearly written segments in large print.”

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