The Power in Sharing Your Wisdom

In Las Vegas, we shared our mission of celebrating life and preserving your legacy at Hospice Care of the West with a group of hospice care executives gathered for their annual Skilled Healthcarezithromax online

> meeting. The evening before my presentation, we set up a Reminiscing Corner so they could experience the power of reflecting in a life review interview guided by a life story documentary filmmaker Jay Gianukos. From behind a video camera, he asked questions that inspired each of them to reflect on pivotal life moments that shaped who they are today and share some wisdom to pass on to the next generations. These individuals are on the frontlines of end of life care and have the power to rewrite how we live in life’s last chapter for their patients and families. So, it was my pleasure and honor to be invited to speak with them.

The following day, I opened my presentation by inviting each of them to light a candle because that is an old ritual used to help people reflect in the past and then I explained that I would now introduce them to some new modern day rituals that draw on technology to help us preserve those reflections. And more importantly, show them the power in sharing those life reflections with our family and community. Each of them received my book, Parting Ways: New Rituals and Celebrations of Life’s Passing, that explores how families and communities are reinventing their roles with new rituals that bring intimacy, preparation and celebration to a stage of life that’s been alienated.
I discovered both in my own experiences losing my parents to cancer and later visiting with families from the East to West Coasts that hospice care and the life review interview that records one’s personal history can transform the personal experience of end of life.

Debbie Robson, Executive Director of Hospice Care of the West, and Denise Carson, author of Parting Ways, at a presentation for Skilled Healthcare in Las Vegas. Photo by Jay Gianukos

In Chapter 6 of my book, I follow Donna Miller, the founder of the life review video program and Director of Volunteer Services of Hospice Care of the West. She visits the bedside of hospice patients and records a last interview that is edited with music and pictures. Patients then give these life review videos as gifts to their families. We’ve found that one of the biggest assaults on one’s dignity at the end of life is that nothing of who or what I am will live on after I die. These life review videos not only preserve one’s dignity but also one’s life history. That is why we asked these hospice executives to take a moment to experience recording a life review interview. Debbie Robson, Executive Director at Hospice Care of the West, joined us at the Reminiscing Corner, and talked about her greatest life achievement was going back to college to get a nursing degree and how that empowered her to be able to take care of her family. She then reflected on how her mother’s recent passing and her regret of not sitting down to record a life review with her.

After excerpts from the interviews played on the silver screen, we asked them to discuss what it felt like to now have a piece of their life history preserved. Shane Peck, President of Skilled Healthcare, shared his inspiration of having his children interview their grandparents to video record their life stories for posterity. Blaine Whitson reflected on his desire to go home and record the stories of his life for his children. We also gave them a notebook full of life review questions that they could use for themselves or their patients.

In the end, we all are capable of making people comfortable and pain free in hospice care, but there is something else we can do for our patients that helps transport them even if it’s for a brief moment out of their current condition in life to reflect on a better time. If we listen and record their stories, patients will have dignity in knowing they will live on in the minds and hearts of their loved ones. Sharing their story radiates from within and by asking them questions that spark life review we are comforting them from the inside.




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