Hurley Elder Care Law Newsletter - November 2016
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   Dying Well                                           November 2016

I heard the term Dying Well in the 90s when I was in nursing school. As a mother who had natural childbirth in the early 80s, Dying Well made sense to me. If mothers could plan a safe and meaningful birth for their children, we should be able to plan a meaningful death for ourselves or for our loved ones. Unfortunately, in the United States we don’t value the process of death as much as we do the process of life.

What does the term Dying Well mean? For me as for many others, it means dying at home, having family members nearby, not being in pain, and not having been in and out of the hospital multiple times over the past year. Dying Well not only includes the actual death, but the kind of end-of-life experience that most people hope for. In the United States, two-thirds of people die outside of the home despite the fact that most people want a home death. Not enough people actually take advantage of hospice, where the focus is dying at home.  Fortunately, many urban hospitals now have palliative care teams that help the patients and families make end-of-life (EOL) decisions.

Planning to die well means having an in-depth conversation about EOL decisions, executing an advance directive and discussing its contents with the healthcare agent and family. The advance directive needs to be readily available so it is near when needed. This is important because most elderly people do not want their life extended.

Dying well means different things to different people, but there are some common themes for people at the end of their lives.  According to several sources, people near the end of life just want to be heard. Some suggestions for dying well, paraphrased from Dr. Charles Garfield, include:

  • Having a trusted person to help fulfill the dying person’s wishes at the end of life to help insure that he/she has a death that is desired.
  • Reviewing one’s life to (a) find meaning in the work he/she has done and (b) to find meaning associated with the people whom the person has loved and who has loved her or him. Hospice staff will often refer to this as, “closing one’s circle.”
  • Resolving personal conflicts within one’s self and with others. Sometimes this means trying to resolve long-standing family conflicts.
  • Wanting as little physical pain as possible, as well as very little psychological or spiritual pain.
  • Remaining as alert and social as the person wants. Some people choose solitude and others want lots of family around them. Some people want to sleep a lot and others wish to remain as alert as possible.
  • A desire not to undergo unnecessary procedures and transfers from one place to another.
  • Being able to have any remaining wishes fulfilled; making sure the person is asked what he or she needs or wants and helping them get it.

“Dying has its own trajectory, sometimes short and steep, sometimes with recurring crises and transient improvement (Sheehan).” What death will be like depends on what the person is dying from. By planning ahead through participation in advanced care planning, it allows people to focus on the present; the present is where the potential for living most meaningfully exists.


Garfield, Dr. Charles, “Seven Keys to a Good Death,” 4/30/14

Martin, Courtney E., “Zen and The Art of Dying Well,” 2015

Sheehan, Myles, “On Dying Well,” 9/26/16


Family Business We are all going in different directions over the next two weeks. Sandi is all set for her cruise to the Western Caribbean, Theresa is going to Sedona and the Grand Canyon, and Dawn is also going out west to California. Keesha will be driving to see her parents in Pensacola, Kim will be visiting family in Chattanooga and yet again, Nancy will be going to Charlotte to see her grandson, Will. With all of these great places to go, who gets stuck watching after all of the dogs? LOUISE!  On the bright side of things, she will have time to run the 10k Gobble Jog with Danielle followed by good food and even better company at Miles and Joanna’s house! On behalf of the entire Hurley Elder Care Law family, we wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!
Recommended November Reading:
Byock, Dr. Ira, "Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life,” 1997 
Gawande, Atul, “Being Mortal," 
Kalanithi, Paul, "When Breathe Becomes Air,
Recent BlogsVeteran's Day- Ways to show your appreciation for our Veterans.

Flu Vaccines Available- Learn where you can get your annual flu shot.

Behavioral Symptoms Affect Caregivers- Learn about a recent study on caregivers.

Flu Shot Season- Information you need to know about this year’s flu.

Elder Care Resources
Access to Care PlanningRead what this Nov. 3rd announcement means for families of Alzheimers patients.

Dispute After Death- Planning ahead can prevent disputes among family members over your belongings.

Seamless Conversion Suspended- Good news for those newly eligible for Medicare.

Miles P. Hurley, JD, CELA  Miles P. Hurley founded Hurley Elder Care Law in 2006 to provide legal assistance to the elderly population on issues relating to aging including retaining independence, quality of life and financial security. Mr. Hurley is one of ten attorneys in the state of Georgia to receive the Elder Law Attorney Certification, and one of approximately 400 nationwide. 
Hurley Elder Care Law is dedicated to the process of long-term care and estate planning. Call us today for a free phone consultation with a client coordinator at (404) 843-0121.
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Hurley Elder Care Law
100 Galleria Pkwy, Suite 650
Atlanta, GA 30339

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225 Creekstone Ridge, Woodstock, GA 30188       
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Hurley Elder Care Law       404-843-0121

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