Maggie Callanan has been a hospice nurse since 1981. She has cared for more than 2,000 dying people and their families. They have taught her that dying is hard work but that this last act can be "affirming and enriching, a creative time of closeness, growth, and memory making, despite all its difficulty and grief." Some of the material in this book is addressed primarily to the dying person while other chapters are designed for caregivers, family, and friends. It is a very comprehensive resource with wise counsel and plenty of personal stories on the medical, emotional, spiritual, practical, legal, and ethical challenges of death and dying.
Many decisions have to be to made about the treatment and care of a terminally ill person. Callanan notes:
"Dying of a terminal illness is usually not a momentary event, like flipping a light switch. It's a series of losses: of our customary role in the family and on the job; of many of life's pleasures, such as golfing and taking trips; of physical function and sometimes mental abilities. It's very hard for the dying person to give up so much, and it's very hard for the family and friends to witness the process."
She covers the benefits of hospice and the tough questions on choosing "do not resuscitate" orders and pain management. She explores caregiving in a wounded relationship, the "final gifts" of nearing death awareness, grief work, and much more. Throughout Final Journeys, Callanan includes helpful tips and sound observations. Here is a sampler of them:
• A terminal diagnosis is not the end of the story. As one door closes, another can be opened.
• Choosing hospice does not mean 'giving up hope': it can be about help with living your dreams.
• With hospice and palliative care available in today's world, you don't have to die in pain or with other suffering.
• Dying, like a highway journey, has potential early exits you can choose, to control the length, duration, and comfort of the journey called dying.
• People die as they live, but more so. To expect something different is to set yourself up for disappointment and failure.
• Spiritual needs and influences intensify as death approaches. Addressing these needs appropriately is critically important in the holistic and compassionate care of the dying.
• The dying can spend their precious time raging against and fighting their illness, or they can choose to celebrate life while making final and powerful memories.