December 17, 2014

 On life with death and dying in a CCRC
All of the ads I've seen for CCRC facilities like the one where I have lived for six months emphasize the joys of living in them.

This online ad is from Rose Villa, the CCRC next to Willamette View where I live.
It could be from Match.com.


There's nothing wrong with that. But there's much more to the culture of living among people in the last quarter of their lifetimes. The hope of some (but not all) widows and widowers at a CCRC may be that they will fall in love again. Some do. But for those who don't, or don't want to, it is a sure thing that they will develop lasting friendships. 

The ad which would reflect what enables many, even most of us to varying extents, to be happy here is one that tells the story about how well we live as kindred spirits, facing the end of our lives, or the lives of our most loved one, within a span of years which is easy to contemplate. 

"Normal" death and dying are all around us. Every day we walk past one or more bulletin boards where 3x5 cards, updated daily, list the names of residents who have died.

Some of the longtime residents may recognize all of the names. Some of the newer ones, like myself, recognize only a few.

Sometimes the cards hold no surprises, other times we are shocked when we see a new card and realize that someone who had seemingly been in good health, has died.

When a married resident dies, it is common to see their spouse (often with family members) in the dining room or hallways within a few days, if not the very next day.

Twice a year the counselor presents the "Rite of Remembrance," where most of the residents gather to say goodbye to those who have died. They listen to a heartfelt, thought provoking, and inspiring speech by the staff counselor. It is devoid of the platitudes so often heard by those whose job it is to address funerals. 

I hope to write more in the future as I think about living well, and about facing death in this culture of life and death. 

I hope I am worthy of the title I have, some might say audaciously, given my new "job" (really an endeavor of exploration) on my LinkedIn profile: heuristic researcher, psychosocial thanatology.

Reading on DSM-5 (latest psychiatric diagnostic manual) and how to assess grief