The deeply personal experience of companioning a loved one or friend during their final days, learned at the bedside of so many individual Canadians, has taught us important universal lessons.
We have learned that dying is an integral and fundamentally human stage of living, and, that when physical and emotional needs are sensitively met, the journey towards death—though always difficult—can be a rich and profound experience that gives meaning and completeness to life.
We have learned that it is essential to manage pain and other symptoms effectively so that those facing death, and their loved ones, can devote their energies, not to fighting physical discomfort, but to embracing the life of mind, heart and spirit.
We have learned that everyone faces death in his or her own way. And, we know that retaining the power of individual choice—about medical treatments, about care settings, about practical, emotional and spiritual services—is essential. It is through this exercise of personal choice that dignity is preserved and isolation from the daily activity of living is prevented.
We have learned that patients and their loved ones must be well informed, active participants and decision makers in the health care team. They must be prepared to be advocates for the quality of care they deserve at the end of life.
These are fundamental lessons, drawn from the living experience of hospice palliative care patients, families, volunteer and professionals over many years. They are lessons of hope, comfort and practical advice.
(Source: The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association and the collective hospice palliative care movement, in partnership with The GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, who launched the Living Lessons® campaign to open that public dialogue and to promote understanding of the quality of care that is possible at the end of life.)