Living with Dying Blog

My mom, Norma Mae Beecham, died 3 months ago, and every day since that day, I feel big moments of grief and almost as many moments of guilt. Grief, because I miss her. Guilt, because I was not a perfect daughter or caregiver. For the last 5 years that she […]

Caregiver Guilt

A person is actively dying or in active labor as we call it in our book when he or she is in the last few days and hours of life. The body systems are shutting down. The patient is unresponsive and not able to take in food or fluids. There […]

Tips for Providing Care to the Actively Dying Patient

"I’ve often wanted to be able to refer families to one source that could really gather the information that they need into one easy-to-access place. Caregiving can be a rough job. It often goes unnoticed and unsupported. Caregivers experience anticipatory grief, exhaustion, overwhelm, and even depression related to all the […]

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

Our body is amazing. It has a system for fighting disease. It even has a system for dying. Though every person’s death is unique, there are similarities that occur in the dying process that are kind and help us have a good death. The closer we get to death the […]

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