As we explored this week, late adulthood is a dynamic, rich time of life with many transitions and times of both growth and loss. One of the most profound experiences in late adulthood is that of death and dying – both our own death and the loss of loved ones. In our readings this week, we learned about how important cultural contexts are in understanding the death and dying process. As current/future healthcare professionals, having an understanding of how others process death and grief is key to being able to provide quality support and care. For our final assignment for this class, you will be reflecting on the following scenarios.
Part I: Imagine…you are 77 years old. You have lived a happy, fulfilling life, but have recently learned you have terminal cancer and are reflecting on how you want to spend your last few months and what you would like for your final wishes. In 1-2 pages, describe what you would like this last chapter of your life to look like. Consider:
What is your cultural heritage? What cultural traditions do you or your family hold that would impact your dying process and last wishes? (i.e. I’m Irish and my family and cultural heritage view death as a time to celebrate the life of a loved one with a long Irish wake, stories about our loved one, laughter, etc. We view funerals as a time to be very emotionally expressive about our loss).
How does your family communicate about or view death? What impact does communication with loved ones have on the death and dying process?
Part II: Imagine…you are a nurse, social worker, hospice volunteer or other healthcare professional working with a 77-year-old terminal cancer patient who is struggling with her end of life decisions. She is stoic and hard-working. Her culture values privacy and independence. She doesn’t wish to burden her family and so changes the subject anytime her children try to broach the topic of her final wishes, taking care of her house/pets, her will, etc. She becomes uncomfortable anytime you or other care providers ask to discuss her wishes on things such as DNR orders, religious wishes, or final arrangements. Her children are concerned about her and are worried they don’t know how to best fulfill her wishes and are imploring you to help. In 1-2 pages, consider:
How might your own views on death and dying impact your work with this patient?
How might you seek to guide or help this patient and her family through this time?
What cultural context might be at work here to consider?
Remember, as you reflect on these topics, connect your own experiences and ideas to the theory and research we are learning about in class, referencing your text and at least two other sources.
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