Our Life Celebrations blog is a source that will hopefully inspire individuals, families and communities to reinvent how we approach end of life with new rituals that bring celebration, legacy and hope to a time of life that has been traditionally alienated for the last century.
While researching her book Parting Ways, Denise Carson, the blog author who later wrote a column for the Orange County Register, discovered life review video, oral ethical wills, living funeral, vigils, and last wish celebrations changed the way patients and families experienced hospice and end of life. Denise joined forces with Debbie Robson, former executive director for Hospice Care of the West, to help integrate these programs, develop this blog and shift the culture of hospice from dying to living and celebrating life. Not long after, the California Hospice and Palliative Care Association awarded Denise Carson and Hospice Care of the West the Outstanding Program Achievement Award. The award recognizes an innovative program that stands as a model for other hospices and end-of-life care providers. CHAPCA is dedicated to promoting and strengthening the delivery of hospice care for terminally ill patients and their families through education and advocacy.
Nine out of 10 Americans wish to die at home among family and friends, yet very few do, because most people don’t know how. Hospice can help us make these wishes happen for those we love while opening the door for life celebrations that gather the family to video record a legacy of life stories, reminisce at a living wake with live music or make a last wish like a last sunset sail on the Pacific happen. These kinds of memorable moments are possible with the preparations and plans explored on this blog. Ourlifecelebrations.com is an informative yet heartfelt mix of personal life stories and interviews to introduce a variety of perspectives and wisdom about end of life in the twenty-first century for patients, families, caregivers, palliative care physicians, nurses and faith-based communities. We focus on guiding you on how to start end-of-life planning and conversations now to ensure your last wishes come true and that you or your loved one will not die alone.
Denise followed the life review video program at Hospice Care of the West while writing her book, Parting Ways. She was moved by how patients and families were transported at the bedside to more memorable, happy times in their lives. These video recorded life review interviews spark reflections that invite the hospice patient to pass on his or her life wisdom to their children and grandchildren. Also, while researching her book, Denise met Jay Gianukos, life story documentary filmmaker at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Jay brought his expertise to the life review video program at Hospice Care of the West and developed all the video for Ourlifecelebrations.com, which brought to life hospice patient for many of our followers.
Today, Jay Gianukos is spreading life story video programs to hospices. Read more about the Life Story Program here. One of the ways, we spread awareness of recording life stories is by creating Reminiscing Corners at Senior Centers, Retirement Homes, Assisted Living Facilities and Boomer Lifestyle Conferences to change the conversation about end of life. We ask questions such as “What wisdom would like to pass on to the next generations?” Or “How do you want to be remembered?” The people you meet on this blog are brave, wise, courageous and above all shining bright in their last days. We have found that folks in hospice are like super novas, brightest and wisest at the end. It’s our job to tap into that wisdom and preserve it.
Caitlin Crommett, the founder of Dream Catchers, makes last wishes come true for hospice patients. Denise Carson writes about many of these wishes and celebrations on this blog. Vigil Volunteer program ensures no one dies alone. The goal is to inspire folks to think differently about how we spend the limited time we have left in hospice or the end of life. As a final part of the mission to change the way people live at the end of life was to honor and celebrate the caregivers. We created bi-monthly Celebration! to restore the spirits of hospice nurses, social workers, spiritual care givers, and home health aides. Together with Jay Gianukos, Denise orchestrates a reflection ceremony, living eulogy, reminiscing corner video, and montage to uplift the souls of our caregivers on the front lines of hospice. These Celebrations were a culmination of the research that Denise writes about in her book Parting Ways. You can experience the magic of this Celebration!