Living with Dying Blog

Hospice nurse and social worker, Katie Ortlip, came to her writing partner’s, Jahnna Beecham, aid when her father was dying. The two wrote the book "Living with Dying: A Complete Guide for Caregivers" as an instruction guide to understanding the dying process as a caregiver. Read an excerpt of Jahnna’s […]

Poof! You’re a Caregiver

Mike Good knows we are all Together in This when it comes to caregiving for a loved one. Thanks Mike for the opportunity to share “What Happens as the Body Dies” on your website. What Happens as the Body Dies?  

What Happens as the Body Dies?

Since our book has been out I’ve been frequently asked what defines a good death. Of course we all want a peaceful, comfortable death surrounded by loved ones, and this is part of what a good death is. It is also about spending those last months, weeks and days on […]

My Father’s Death

Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking At this moment, 13 states have “Death With Dignity” laws that allow patients who are close to dying to take medication to end their lives. But even in those states, that option is not always available and so some patients make the decision to hasten […]

What is VSED?

My father had dementia when he died. My mother, who is 93, is showing signs of it. That’s the problem with dementia — it doesn’t appear full-blown and clear. It’s insipid and creeps up on you. Sometimes it’s not evident to friends and distant relatives, just to you the caregiver, […]

How Do You Care for Someone with Dementia?

        LIVING WITH DYING A Complete Guide for Caregivers has been reviewed by 10 doctors, 8 nurses, and numerous caregivers in the trenches caring for elderly parents, spouses, and friends with terminal illnesses. We’re excited to finally offer this field guide for caring for a loved one […]

Our Book is Finally Available!

As a hospice social worker, much of my focus during my visits with patients is on their physical symptoms. Of course this is necessary to ensure their comfort, but I find it is just as important to sit and listen to their stories. Everyone has a story to tell, and […]

Life Review

In the last few days of a patient’s life, it is very common for him to slip into a semi-coma or deep sleep, where he cannot be aroused. You may notice some moaning or grimacing with positioning, or a pause in breathing when you talk to him, but for the […]

Coma Care

The first time you break down and say, “I need help. I have to hire a caregiver,” it’s usually at a really stressful moment. You dial an agency and get them to send someone out as soon as possible. If you’re really lucky, it all works out—the caregiver is experienced, […]

Hiring a Caregiver

So often we equate food with love and nurturing, so it is no surprise that when our loved-one refuses to eat, it can be distressing. The subject of feeding and nutrition is one of the most common problems that come up in caring for someone at the end of life. Weeks, […]

Food Fight!

Does this sound familiar? Your dad passed away two years ago. Now your 88 year-old mom is living at her home by herself. You have her wearing a medic alert button in case she falls. You call several times a day and try to visit her every few days but […]

Where can I put Mom?

Flight attendants instruct you to put on your oxygen mask first before you put on your child’s mask. Why? So you will be alive and able to care for your child. The same goes for being a caregiver. If you don’t take care of yourself, then everything else crumbles. As a […]

Care for the Caregiver

Rose was in the last stage of dying. She lived in a memory care facility and was dying from Alzheimer’s disease. At the end-stage of this disease, people generally stop eating, and then drinking, and a natural sedation occurs. With good mouth care, repositioning, and small amounts of medication for […]

Who is the One Really Suffering

As we get closer to the end of life, the fabric between this world and the next becomes very thin. Sometimes it seems like the dying are straddling two worlds. They often see people we don’t see and converse with them. Relatives, old friends, or strangers appear to be standing […]

Visitors from the Other Side

I have been a hospice worker, first as a nurse and then as a social worker, for over 20 years now, so of course hospice care is dear to my heart. I have witnessed first-hand how much help and support we provide to people and their loved ones, in the last months, […]

Hospice: The Way to Go

According to Katie, who has spent 20 years working for Hospice, travel metaphors are very big with dying people. When patients start talking about taking a trip, it can be a signal that they are preparing to go. They often start getting agitated, wanting to pack and go “home.” Sometimes they […]

To Infinity and Beyond

Morphine is one of the most widely used medications at the end of life. It is the gold standard of pain control and one of the most effective medications for shortness of breath, yet people still fear it. Some patients even refuse to use it because of the myths they’ve […]

The 411 on Morphine

One of the big myths I hear about hospice is we give you “that shot”and then you die. That shot, being morphine, doesn’t end your life. It eases your pain. But we hospice workers know there is more than one technique to ease a person’s suffering. One of them is thanatology […]

The Language of the Spirit

Mom, looking for her passport My 90-year-old mom was suddenly really sick last week and my husband Malcolm and I had a serious, “Do we know where everything important is?" moment. Mom had filled out an advanced directive and I have durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney. […]

Where is Everything

Talking about death is not an easy subject and each person handles it in his or her own way. Some people and their families boldly face death head on. Others never want to admit out loud that they are going to die. But there is a middle ground where practical […]

Final Instructions