Category Archives: End-of-life issues

“Portraits From A Pandemic: ‘Feeling Hollow’ In A Retirement Home” – NPR

“‘Well, I have to go in a few more minutes,’ she explained. She and her husband had recently updated their will, fixing married names of their children. ‘You need to be sure that the documents that the kids would need to have are in order. And so we’re going downstairs to find the notary.’”

portraits from a pandemic“Margaret Sullivan posing in one of her homemade masks, cut from an old sock. ‘Several people have seen pictures of them and they’ve very kindly asked if they could send us real masks,’ she said.” – Tyrone Turner/WAMU

by Jacob Fenston and Tyrone Turner

“In our first conversation by phone, Margaret Sullivan told me maybe she wasn’t a good fit for my reporting project, on people whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. After all, she had a comfortable life and was being well taken care of in a retirement home in Falls Church. ‘Living in a bubble,’ she said.

“But a few minutes later, she told me this: ‘My brother died about two weeks ago of the virus.’

“He was her younger brother, and lived a few states away.

“‘I’m the old oldest and he’s the youngest. And that’s outside the order of things.”‘

“My experience during the pandemic has been long days juggling kids and work. Worrying about money. Trying to schedule grocery deliveries.

“But for Margaret, the virus brings with it thoughts of mortality.”

Click here to read this article at NPR in its entirety.


Covid or No Covid, It’s Important to Plan | Now is an excellent time to assess your own situation and choose the best approach should the worst happen.” – The New York Times

important to planNew York Times article


“My phone rang with a FaceTime video, and my cousin’s face popped into view. We spent the first few minutes expressing our mutual disbelief and shock over Covid-19, acknowledging the insanity and underlying terror of these unprecedented circumstances. We joked about how our anxious mothers, with their endless reminders of dressing warm and staying indoors, had prepared us for this moment.

“Then my cousin stood up and closed the door to her room. ‘I want to talk to you about something more serious,’ she said. We both burst into laughter: What could be more serious than the end of the world?

“She took a deep breath and I watched her face crumple as she asked if, in the unlikely event that she and her husband both ended up extremely ill — or worse — I would be willing to drive the 300 miles to her house and get her young sons. Around the globe, Covid-19 has made people like my cousin realize their own mortality, bringing about difficult, but necessary, conversations regarding their end-of-life wishes.

“My cousin got her planning done in advance, but a friend of mine wasn’t so lucky.”

Click here to continue reading this New York Times article in its entirety.

Virtual “Death Cafe” today from 10:00 am to Noon – FREE & no agenda – except yours.

Zoom DC 04032020

mortality moments | “Death Cafe & Covid-19 • Never has there been such a need to talk about death and dying, and we are not able to meet each other face-to-face to do this, with as yet, no specified end.” The scenes and reports form the current global situation has intensified people’s focus on their own mortality. Join this local virtual Death Cafe at 10:00 this morning to talk about end-of-life thoughts that may be wandering around in your mind.

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Apr 18, 2020 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

A surge | Death cafes report surge of interest since Covid-19 outbreak” – The Guardian

“The Conversation Starter Kit is a useful tool to help you have the conversation with a family member, friend, or other loved one about your – or their – wishes regarding end-of-life care. It is available in several languages. All of the Starter Kits are available to download and print for free.

Podcast: “Rethinking Advance Directives in the Time of Coronavirus” – End of Life University


Learn why it is important right now to revisit your own advance directives and those of your loved ones.”

“COVID-19 Crisis Threatens Beleaguered Assisted Living Industry” – Kaiser News Network

Walking frame in the corridor, Germany

by Laura Ungar and Jay Hancock 

“David Aguirre jumped in his truck and drove toward the hospital in the predawn darkness the minute he got the news: His 91-year-old mom was being rushed from her Texas assisted living facility to the emergency room.

Estela Aguirre would be one of five residents to die and six others to be sickened by the novel coronavirus at The Waterford at College Station, part of a financially strapped chain of assisted living sites called Capital Senior Living.

“So he missed seeing her draw her last breath.”

“’My mom was a sweet, kind person. People really felt like they’d known her for 100 years. She was just that kind of soul,’ said Aguirre, who lost his mother on March 28. ‘Some days, I’ll sit down and have my heart cry.’

“Assisted living complexes, home to more than 800,000 people nationwide, have quickly become a new and dangerous theater in the coronavirus war.”

Read this story in its entirety at Kaiser Health News, click here.

Extraordinary times | Being prepared in the time of COVID-19 (The Conversation Project)

conversation project covid

The Conversation Project has created a specific and succinct worksheet especially for documenting your healthcare wishes during the time of COVID-19. Please click on the above graphic (or here) to download, complete and discuss with your health care decision maker and family.


thoughts: about mortality, faith, dying alone in times like today’s

The Washington Post: “Now is a time where people actually need to have the discipline of keeping in regular contact.” Norman J. Williams, the long-time director of Unity Funeral Parlors in Chicago.

“The coronavirus has changed so much about our lives. It has also changed how we deal with death.

“Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have essentially brought an end to large funerals and memorials where people can share their grief. A brief hug to comfort a mourner is potentially lethal.”

“‘Let Us Stay In Touch With Those That We Love.’ A Funeral Director’s Lessons For Life.”NPR

pandemic deathRita Ghai stood with her daughter Samta in the doorway of their Pittsfield home.”ERIN CLARK/GLOBE STAFF

by Zoe Greenberg, Liz Kowalczyk and Mark Arsenault 

“A pandemic that ruptures familiar rituals around dying and death | ‘All any of us wanted to do was hold his hand,’ said a woman whose father died alone in a hospital.”  The Boston Globe

funerals“An employee at a funeral logistics center near Paris carries a coffin for a covid-19 victim on Monday.” (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

by Char Barrett, a funeral director and the owner of A Sacred Moment funeral services in Everett, Wash.

A large family in the area had long planned to honor their beloved, ailing patriarch with an elaborate funeral at their church, followed by a graveside service and a meal. Even before he died, we had this gentleman’s clothing hanging in the back room of our funeral home, ready for the day they’d put him to rest.

“That was before the pandemic.

“When he died on March 15, I had to tell the family that they couldn’t have a funeral at all. They were devastated.” Continue reading.

 “The United States is about to endure a collective trauma unlike anything in recent memory.”

quarter million fasualtiesADIMAS – STOCK.ADOBE.COM

“President Trump, long a coronavirus skeptic, stood before a room of White House reporters Tuesday afternoon and offered sobering new message.

“’I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,’ he said. ‘We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.’

The United States government was projecting that the new coronavirus will kill 100,000 to 240,000 Americans. Many of them, it seems, could die in the coming month. And epidemiologists warn that the eventual total could be substantially higher — maybe 400,000 or 500,000.” – The Boston Globe


mass in pandemic“A Mass is live-streamed from an empty St. Augustine Church & Catholic Student Center in Coral Gables, Fla., on March 29.” (Lynne Sladky/AP)

by R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Kelly J. Shackelford 

Perhaps the question most asked of either of us lately — whether as a theologian or a religious liberty attorney — is whether religious liberty is imperiled by government officials responding responsibly to the threat of the covid-19 pandemic. We do not think so.

“Americans treasure not only the ‘free exercise’ of religion but also the “right of the people peaceably to assemble” as articulated in the First Amendment and practiced with minimal interruption since our nation’s founding. When asked to curtail any part of it — even temporarily — Americans’ skepticism reveals just how treasured religious freedom remains and the enduring vigilance with which they maintain it.

“Most people are willing to tolerate temporary restrictions on even our most treasured liberties if it means demonstrating love for neighbor in a time of crisis. Of course, the key to that tolerance is that the restrictions be both temporary and necessary.” – The Washington Post

Care at the End of Life

As more people are hospitalized due to COVID-19, are health care systems, patients, and families prepared for tough conversations and decisions about health care preferences and medical interventions? Now more than ever, it is important for providers to tap into the core tenets of palliative care to guide patients and their families through uncharted waters.

Palliative care is a medical specialty focused on alleviating stress and suffering for people with serious illness, and it is often provided alongside curative care as an extra layer of support. Some experts worry that a longstanding shortage of palliative care specialists “could leave many COVID-19 patients in distress,” Liz Szabo reported in Kaiser Health News.

“This pandemic means that we will be drawn into countless conversations with families who are suddenly having to make difficult decisions about life and death,” Nathan Gray, MD, a palliative care specialist at Duke University Hospital, wrote in a comic book–style story that he illustrated. “As we take stock of masks, gloves, and ventilators, we must also be ready to dig deep into our reserves of patience, communication, and compassion.”

In a Washington Post commentary, Emily Aaronson, MD, an emergency physician and assistant chief quality officer at Massachusetts General Hospital, encouraged families to engage in conversations about end-of-life wishes now. “It’s important that you understand what would be most important to them if they were in the last phase of their life — and what steps you and others will have to take to ensure those needs are met,” Aaronson wrote. “These are conversations designed to guard against regrets.”

Many resources are available to help families and health care providers alike. Aaronson recommended the Conversation Project …  to facilitate conversations. (Look for a Pennsylvania Link to Aging and Disability Resources Death Cafe to to have those conversations, too.)

The Center to Advance Palliative Care organized a COVID-19 toolkit for clinicians, and VitalTalk, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping clinicians develop communication skills for serious illness, published a guide to difficult conversations about care of COVID-19 patients.

SOURCE: California Health Care Foundation

“Op-Ed: Think you want to die at home? You might want to think twice about that” – The Los Angeles Times


by Nathan Gray

“Gray is an assistant professor of medicine and palliative care at Duke University School of Medicine and an artist who draws comics on medical topics.” And this is an interesting way to get information on the subject of end of life care.

Click here to see more.

“Death Cafes let participants explore end-of-life questions” – The Blade

dc logo

by Nicki Gorny | The Blade, Toledo, OH

“Where would you like to die?

“In a hospital or at home? Perhaps in the course of doing something you love?

“And what do you think happens when you die? Angel choirs or a great big nothing?

“How do you feel about hospice? About social media announcements of a loved one’s death? Would you want someone to eulogize you on Facebook or Twitter? Would you want them to keep it off the Internet? Or would it not matter to you at all because … well, you’re dead?”

Continue reading this article at The Blade, click here.

Discover what Death Cafes are all about. The Pennsylvania Link to Aging and Disability Resources | Berks-Lancaster-Lebanon Service Area has Death Cafes scheduled for each of our counties for early 2020.

Lancaster County  on Saturday, January 18 at the Manheim Township Public Library

Lebanon County on Saturday, January 25 at the Lebanon Community Library

Berks County on February 15 at the Cramp-Hummel Funeral Home in Reading

Come out to a Death Cafe near you to learn more about living and dying. And why Death Cafes have become such popular events.