Regrets? Hopefully not.

One of my dearest, long-time friends and former college roommates shared the following article with me over the holidays. It deals with end-of-life regrets. Hopefully the start of a New Year is a great time to reflect on these regrets and more importantly, how not to have them in our own lives.

Happy New Year and Happy Fullness of Living in 2014 and beyond,

Melody

Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed


By Sina Anvari | November 11, 2013

Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.

I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way; you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness

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An inspiring note from Nancy …

The amazing Rev. Nancy McCraine from Hospice Austin sent the following, and it meant a lot to me. Perhaps it will to you as well. Here’s to more stillness in each of our lives … Melody

Doorways to the Soul:
Cultivating Stillness

If our outer world is a reflection of our inner world,
don’t you want to take time to weed and care for your inner garden?
~Renee Trudeau, Nurturing the Soul of Your Family~

I am deeply thankful for those moments in the early morning when I try to be quiet, to sit in the presence of the gentle and compassionate and unruffled One to try to share in or be given some of that divine serenity. If I do not spend a reasonable amount of time in meditation early in the morning, then I feel a physical discomfort — it is worse than having forgotten to brush my teeth! I would be completely rudderless and lost if I did not have these times with God.
~Desmond Tutu~

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and be calm in your heart.
~Anonymous~

Our family raises organic blueberries and in the early summer we have a “pick your own” berry business on our Bastrop County farm. From sun up to sun down for several weekends in June all kinds of wonderful people come to pick these delicious dark blue orbs. It is great fun to listen to families talking and laughing as they fill their buckets and to see children, their fingers and faces stained blue, experience the joy of the harvest. By the end of each day, however, we are usually spent: over-heated, sun scorched, dusty and tired. On one such evening, several years ago, I had just returned to the comfort of our air conditioned home when I heard my husband finish a phone conversation something like this… That sounds great! We’ll see y’all in a couple of hours. You’re more than welcome to stay the night!

Who was that? I said, in what I’m sure was a less-than-gracious tone.

Some people are riding their bikes from Austin and want to camp out on our place, he replied.

You’ve got to be kidding!?! I said, imagining myself entertaining four sweat stained strangers for dinner when all I wanted was a shower and sleep.

Reading my mind, he assured me that there was nothing I had to do. They just want to pop their tents, he said, and hang out on the farm, maybe pick a few berries in the morning.
Noticing that I was still scowling in his direction he asked me what was the matter. I said something about being hot and cranky and that I probably just needed to go wash my face. And with that, I excused myself to go and pout in our bedroom. As I was sitting there (arms crossed, mouth pinched) I asked myself what exactly WAS the matter. Peace and quiet! I thought, is that too much to ask?!? And then I heard a voice from within whisper, Nancy, all the peace and quiet you ever need is here in this moment. Peace and quiet doesn’t depend on what’s going on around you; it’s what’s happening inside you. If it’s stillness you seek, seek no longer. Simply go within and be still.

It was a realization that changed everything for me. I became more aware that I could intentionally cultivate stillness every day so that, no matter what I was doing or where I was doing it, I could quietly slip into a place of inner serenity and peace. Spending at least 10 minutes of meditation or prayer first thing in the morning and last thing at night is, for me, like placing a soft cushion around my day: the edges aren’t quite as sharp; my emotions aren’t quite as unruly; there is available to me greater equanimity, compassion, and humor to face whatever comes.

What are other ways to cultivate stillness? Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way. For many, exercise is one way to stillness. As our bodies move through space our thoughts can begin to settle. Gardening is another way; listening to or making music; cooking; writing; building something. Whatever it is, keep it simple, make it meaningful for you, and keep a sense of humor about it. And give it time.

If you’re ready to experience lasting change in your life and tap into inner peace on a daily basis, develop and stick with a daily spiritual practice. A spiritual mentor once said to me, ‘Want to experience a little bit of peace? Meditate once a week. Want to experience a lot of peace? Meditate every day.’
~Renee Trudeau~

Rev. Nancy Chester McCranie, M.Div.
Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services
Hospice Austin
4107 Spicewood Springs Rd, Suite 100
Austin, TX 78759
P: (512) 342-4716
http://www.HospiceAustin.org

World days

Today in my church, University United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas we celebrated World Communion Sunday.  Along those same lines, this coming Sunday, October 8, 2011, is World Hospice and Palliative Care Day

Seldom a week goes by that I don’t hear accolades about the role of hospice in end-of-life times.  For our family, hospice was and always will be a Godsend.  Perhaps the same is true for you.

Let us remember and celebrate all the tremendous hospice care professionals across our world as we look to World Hospice and Palliative Care Day.  In this organization’s web link, there is a tab to ‘tell your story’ which I hope you will consider given the power of stories to change peoples’ lives and give comfort to all by knowing we are not alone.

Melody

Healthcare Reform – An NHPCO Update

In previous blogs I have written about the need for accurate information on the ever-changing prospects for healthcare reform at the national level.  As such, this week I wanted to pass along a recent Public Policy Update from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) which might be helpful.  No doubt additional action has taken place on the issue of healthcare reform in recent days and weeks.  Thus to obtain more recent information, please contact NHPCO directly.

Public Policy Update: The Latest News on Hospice & Health Care Reform

Senate Finance Committee Begins Mark-Up

The Senate Finance Committee has begun consideration of America’s Healthy Future Act. As we told you last week, the proposal currently includes additional rate cuts to hospice. Based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and projections from the Finance Committee, NHPCO estimates that the productivity cuts will amount to an 11.8 percent reduction (after annual Market Basket increases) to hospice reimbursement by 2019.

We’re currently working with hospice champions on the Finance Committee to craft an amendment which would relieve hospice from these additional devastating cuts. We are working to propose a responsible alternative that acknowledges the cost savings from efficiencies already imposed upon hospice through recent regulatory changes and recognizes the unique health care model that hospice is; one that is patient-centered and based on the people that deliver compassionate, high-quality care at the bedside.

Currently, the amendment is being reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office to determine the associated costs. If the amendment can be structured to meet the Finance Committee requirement of budget neutrality, then it should be considered as part of the debate this week. We will keep you apprised of updates and ask for your help to garner support if the amendment moves forward.

The Committee is currently hearing opening statements, and it is anticipated that the consideration of amendments will begin tomorrow. There have been more than 500 amendments filed, so the Committee will be working through the week, and perhaps beyond.

In the meantime, it is critical that we continue to educate Congress on the impact of the proposed cuts to hospice. Contact your Members of Congress TODAY to tell them that “Two Cuts are Too Much for Hospice!”

 

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New Alliance Launched To Address Urgent Palliative Care Needs

Just recently the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA) launched a new global action network designed to focus exclusively on hospice and palliative care development worldwide. The full press announcement can be found here .

More than 100 million people and their families worldwide need palliative care and support each year; however, it is estimated that only seven percent actually receive it, according to the release.

Dr. Cynthia Goh, co-chair of the WPCA, from the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network, noted, “Only 15 percent of the world’s countries have hospice and palliative care that is integrated with general health care, so the formation of the WPCA is tremendously positive step forward in helping to meet an overwhelming need.”

The Web site for the newly formed group is here.

Some definitions …

In talking with people across the country about end-of-life care issues, oftentimes I am asked about definitions of some of the most widely-used terms in this arena of health care, including palliative care and hospice.  ‘What’s the difference?’, people ask.

Here’s a brief reflection:  The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)(www.nhpco.org) defines palliative care as: “treatment that enhances comfort and improves the quality of an individual’s life during the last phase of life.”  One of the key distinctions between palliative care and hospice is that a standard hospice benefit under Medicare applies when a patient’s physician and the hospice medical director certify that a patient has a life expectancy of six (6) months or less, based on the ‘normal’ progression of the disease.  As representatives of Hospice Austin describe, while all hospice care is considered a part of palliative care, not all palliative care is hospice care. 

…Just some definitional food for thought which might be helpful as we think about end-of-life care times we all face.