Our culture has no end of tales of courage and ultimate sacrifice, where someone goes out in a blaze of glory and makes their death worth something. Thankfully, few residents of Manchester and elsewhere receiving palliative care will have the opportunity to have a “Hollywood ending,” complete with substantial explosions and perhaps armies of space aliens to defeat, but there are still plenty of ways to find meaning and insight in your final days and make the experience meaningful for your loved ones as well.
Our team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care tries to find methods to keep people’s spirits up and encourage patients to try and find positive items wherever or whenever possible, even when there’s a tendency to easily focus on the negative.
This doesn’t mean having to deny your fears and concerns about the end-of-life process either, since it’s OK to have these feelings sometimes — it’s natural for someone facing something new to them and final to not always feel great all the time.
It also doesn’t mean you should force yourself to feel happy or unhappy, or guilty because you might be experiencing different feelings about your current situation.
What it does give you the opportunity to do something called “living soulfully,” a concept where we are encouraged to act and think in ways that improve and celebrate our connections between ourselves, those around us, our inner being and the greater universe.
This different perspective can be a useful way of thinking beyond ourselves and our lives, especially our current physical health, and consider what we can still contribute to make the world a more positive place in our remaining time and even after we’re gone.
“Living Soulful” is also the theme of this year’s National Skilled Nursing Week, a recent celebration and acknowledgement of the important roles that skilled nurses can play in people’s lives.
Nurses and other medical professionals who wanted to participate in the May 12-18 event are encouraged to show their patients the value of having active minds and healthy souls. Their patients and patients can be from any sort of environment, including assisted living centers, home health patients, or hospital/clinics.
Participants are also encouraged to spread the word about the week and tell their own experiences on their own social media pages, everything from them feeling inspired to inspiring their peers and patients to be more innovative.
The American Health Care Association, which sponsors the holiday, said living soulfully doesn’t have to be anything major with global impact. It could be as simple as encouraging one person to paint and be creative or simply feel better by listening to music.
Living soulfully doesn’t have to end with the week. The concept and philosophy can be encouraged anytime, no matter where someone is in their life journey and current end-of-life journey.
Joy Selak, a writer, author and public speaker, focuses on the empowering people with chronic illnesses to go forth and accomplish great things regardless of what’s happening to their bodies. Her approach can also apply to those in palliative or hospice situations.
Her messages can be encouraging and inspiring, including:
- Look for ways to share your gifts. Regardless of your current medical status, do you still have skills you can share with others? Can you take anything from your current medical adventure that can be inspiring, educational, even funny?
- Push or don’t push yourself when appropriate. If you’re in a hospice situation, it’s OK to be fearful of what’s ahead. But that may also mean that past anxieties less worrisome or less relevant. So it’s OK to be a little braver, but at the same time, it’s also OK to pull back and take time to rest and recharge.
- Help others. Your perspective may have made you more patient or sympathetic to others who are going through what you’re going through. Let other people know they’re not alone and that you know what they’re going through.
- Enjoy the silence. Selak suggests that part of living soulfully is by taking opportunities to pause, reflect and relax. Being conscious of your local environment can help you feel centered and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. You may have been someone who is always on the go, but your current health status may have encouraged or forced you to slow down.
- Communicate. This can cover everything from being an active patient and talking regularly with providers, insurance companies and other billing professionals, to having meaningful conversations with others in your life. Some people may not know what to say or do, but want to be around you anyway. A palliative care situation can encourage people from your past to want to reconnect – or for you to extend the offer.
One of the parameters of living soulfully is that everyone can be a little different in what they can do and what feels good to them.