What Dying People Want: Practical Wisdom For The End Of Life

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9781586481971: What Dying People Want: Practical Wisdom For The End Of Life

Facing death results in more fear and anxiety than any other human experience. Though much has been done to address the physical pain suffered by those with a terminal illness, Western medicine has been slow to understand and alleviate the psychological and spiritual distress that comes with the knowledge of death. In What Dying People Want, Dr. David Kuhl begins to bridge that gap by addressing end-of-life realities--practical and emotional--through his own experiences as a doctor and through the words and experiences of people who knew that they were dying.

Dr. Kuhl presents ways of finding new life in the process of dying, understanding the inner reality of living with a terminal illness, and addressing the fear of pain, as well as pain itself. He also offers concrete guidance on how to enhance doctor/patient relationships and hold family meetings, and provides an introduction to the process of life review.

It is possible to find meaning and peace in the face of death. What Dying People Want "helps us learn to view the knowledge of death as a gift, not a curse." (New Times)

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Review:

The introduction in this wise book mentions something that author David Kuhl learned from his years of working with the terminally ill: "I didn't know how to talk to them about dying." In What Dying People Want, Kuhl shares his education on this topic by focusing on the daily experience of patients who are learning how to broach such discussions with their caregivers and families while coming to terms with their own mortality.

Heart-wrenching personal stories are intertwined with practical suggestions, and specific instances are frequently used to illustrate techniques, processes, and the importance of telling your story, rather than assuming your family already knows it. Kuhl focuses particularly on coming to terms with one's past. Discussions of family histories, lifelong priorities, and difficult choices are emphasized as tools for making peace among family members and with one's own conscience.

The daily life of pain management and support groups is also covered in detail, and Kuhl offers plenty of suggestions on how to begin that difficult conversation in which death is first acknowledged as a rapidly approaching fact. Written for patients and caregivers as well as friends and family, this useful guide will help everyone involved navigate the twists and turns of terminal illness. --Jill Lightner

From the Author:

In the late 1970's, while I was attending graduate school, Rob, a close friend of mine, died of cancer. He was generous, funny, committed to making a difference in the world and very full of life. Then he died. His dying had a profound effect on me, so much so that two year later when I was a medical student I began to learn about caring for people at the end of life, particularly those with cancer. Ten years after Rob's illness I had the opportunity to start a palliative care program at a major teaching hospital. That was at a time when the challenge was to incorporate care, not only for people with cancer, but those with AIDS as well. That meant caring for men some of whom were younger than I was. I began to realize that while I was equipped to care for their pain and other symptoms, I was much less prepared to care for them, psychologically and spiritually. For that reason I conducted a study: Exploring Spiritual and Psychological Issues at the End of Life. I listened to the stories of people's lives, I worked to suspend judgment and to simply understand the experience of what it meant to live each day with the knowledge that the disease within them would likely be the cause of their death. It was an intense and an in-depth study. It was also a time of self reflection.

I learned a great deal from the people who courageously spoke their truth. In time, many of them asked me to share what they had given to me with others who would follow, those with a terminal illness as well as their friends and family members who would care for them and about them. They asked specifically that I write a book for a general audience, and not only for my colleagues. In the book, I work to present the themes that the people spoke of to me in their stories, to put them into a literary context, and to feature practical wisdom in each chapter. The essence of the research questions was, what is the daily experience of living with a terminal illness? How does that experience affect your sense of self, you relationship with others, and your understanding of the spiritual? The answers to those questions comprise What Dying People Want.

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