[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
 June 1, 1999

Hospice helps dying to maintain dignity

Certified Death Educator Kim Mooney helps people come to grips with their fear of death. And she helps the dying maintain their dignity.

“Only when the tight fist of terror that surrounds death loosens will we have a less skewed relationship with it,´ said Mooney, coordinator of community education and bereavement at Hospice of Boulder County. “Death will assume for us the natural proportion that it has in societies that talk about it.

“We’ve regulated dying to an out-of-the-house process, and have instituted a myth of limited bereavement. Fear of death is appropriate,” adds Mooney, “but being terrified of it isn’t.”

Since 1976, Hospice of Boulder County has existed for the same purpose. The organization provides in-home care for dying patients, nursing facilities, hospitals, and in assisted-living communities by offering services dedicated to improving end-of-life care.

Joining Hospice of Boulder County in June is an in-patient hospice on the campus of the Balfour Retirement Community in Louisville.

“The juxtaposition of the new Care Center and the living opportunities provided by Balfour mean that couples, one of whom is terminally ill and one of whom is not, do not have to be separated,” says Connie Holden, Hospice’s executive director. “The Center is another step we are taking to reach out to people facing the loss of a loved one. It will not change our primary focus on caring for people in their own homes, but will enhance it.”

Holden emphasized that having an in-patient center in Boulder means people with terminally-ill parents living out of state now have an option to bring them closer to home. For working caregivers who can’t offer round-the-clock care, the Care Center may offer a solution. It also may resolve the issue of how to provide more care than untrained relatives can manage.

The new 10-bed Hospice wing attached to Balfour, which will have its grand opening on Sunday, June 13, and will start accepting patients the next day, will offer more than a highly trained staff and state-of-the-art equipment. A large living room, well-equipped kitchen, and garden patio in which patients and family can spend meaningful time together address the need for non-clinical surroundings that both the dying and those close to them have. Family members and pets will be welcome to visit 24 hours a day.

Mooney, recently certified as a death educator by the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), was educated as part of her training in social attitudes about death, the nature of grief, and the legal, ethical, and spiritual dimensions around dying, death and grief.

Mooney’s association with Hospice began nine years ago when, diagnosed with cancer and forced to confront her own mortality, she both volunteered at Hospice and became a support-group member. She is one of only two members of that group who is still alive, and feels “passionately about the need to leap barriers of politeness” in order to achieve a healthy relationship with death.

From both her personal experience and professional training, Mooney feels strongly that there isn’t enough healthy discourse on death. “We need training in, and talking about, dying and death; how different individuals as well as different cultures deal with these subjects, how we can talk and help co-workers who may be terminally ill themselves or have family members who are dying, and how we talk with children.”

Hospice understands that educating oneself about death doesn’t top most people’s lists of things to do, and Mooney says that “unless faced with a sudden loss or a lingering terminal illness,” most of us manage to avoid thinking about it at all. Through its Boulder and Longmont offices and Louisville Care Center, the organization is endeavoring to change this. It hopes to involve the community by offering volunteer opportunities to work with the dying, and to make death less foreboding by offering support groups.

Mooney says many people who die in hospitals are surrounded by busy people and high-tech equipment, both devoted to stopping the dying process, while those who die in their homes are allowed to do what they want to do, and to live as dying people. A goal of Hospice is to surround a dying person with a team of people who understand the terrain, are not frightened of it, and who — by adding to the dignity and quality of death — improve the dignity and quality of life.

Amy Brown, the RN who will be the Care Center coordinator when it opens, echoes Mooney’s sentiments when she urges all of us to become more open about death.

“Hospice referrals,” she says, “can come from anybody; they don’t have to come from a dying patient’s family or physician. We can help, and we can do a better job if we have five weeks rather than just five days. Make the first call, and make it early.”

Certified Death Educator Kim Mooney helps people come to grips with their fear of death. And she helps the dying maintain their dignity.

“Only when the tight fist of terror that surrounds death loosens will we have a less skewed relationship with it,´ said Mooney, coordinator of community education and bereavement at Hospice of Boulder County. “Death will assume for us the natural proportion that it has in societies that talk about it.

“We’ve regulated dying to an out-of-the-house process, and have instituted a myth of limited bereavement. Fear…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]