Education, End-of-Life, Grief/Grieving/Bereavement, Humanity, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Hmmm…Convos on Death?

An article I came across on LinkedIn today by a colleague whom I know through LinkedIn is titled:

What we can learn from death rites of the past will help us treat the dead and grieving better today


“This taboo around death is a fairly modern, Western phenomenon. Past and present, societies have dealt with death and dying in diverse ways. It is clear from, for example, the outpouring of grief at Princess Diana’s death, and the conversations opening up around the 20th anniversary of the event, that these outlets are needed in our society too. High-profile celebrity deaths serve as sporadic catalysts for conversations that should be happening every day, in everyday lives.”

There is a group of individuals around the world trying to change this taboo and make death part of life again, meaning discussions and planning need to occur! I am one of these individuals; there are many more of us.

Why the fear? What changed over the past 100 years? Death happened at home in the past. The funeral and wake took place in the home and the whole community attended and assisted with the burial.

Then WWII happened and all changed. Too much death maybe? Too much destruction? More wars followed after….and still death is taboo today. Slowly this is changing….more of us are being vocal about the need for change, for discussions, but we are also the younger generation meaning baby boomers and younger.

Funerals are expensive! Burials are expensive! The average person needs 10-20k to die if using traditional funeral homes and doing a traditional burial. That is a lot of money and many do not have it. I do not have it. I opt for a more green burial and less expensive one as I am sure many others do or will as well.

“It was not so long ago in the UK that public outpouring of grief and practices that kept the dead close were acceptable. For example, in Victorian England, mourning clothes and jewelry were commonplace – Queen Victoria wore black for decades in mourning for Prince Albert.”

Today, death has been outsourced to professionals and, for many, dying happens in hospitals. But many doctors and nurses themselves feel uncomfortable with broaching the subject with relatives. Why is this? Are they not receiving training while in school? Why no training or discussions in the work place?

To work in a hospital, hospice or palliative care unit, to work with older adults…one must realize that patients and clients will die. Heck, we are all going to die one day! Accept this fact, stop trying to look younger and live longer with unnecessary tests, medications, and treatments if there is no hope, no proof it will help.

Instead, spend time with loved ones, enjoy life, and make the most of the time we have left…

Aging/Gerontology, Healthcare, News

OxyContin in Canada

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

OxyContin seems to be the medication causing dilemmas here in Canada. The drug or medication has been authorized to be a generic and this has some people uncertain, scared, cautious.

OxyContin is a painkiller and painkillers are over-prescribed and easily accessible. This is a concern. Codeine, morphine and oxycodone are active ingredients in painkillers. They are addictive (some say), shared between family members, friends and cause a lot of concern.

We need to realize that these active ingredients are related to opioids, heroin, produce euphoria, can be fatal at large doses or if combined with alcohol or other sedative like medications/drugs.

Is it just me or does it seem like there are a lot of younger people in society experiencing chronic pain or acute pain? Back pain, leg pain, muscle pain, strained muscles, arthritis, more diseases like cancer…not known as well years ago and not usually to such young people.

OxyContin was removed from the Canadian market earlier this year as the control-release mechanism could be worked around by crushing and chewing the medication and people got their quick fix. A new version OxyNEO was released. It is harder to crush or dissolve. Same active ingredient as OxyContin though.

A generic version of a medication/drug means it is less expense and drug insurance plans that would not cover the full cost of the name brand will often cover the full cost of a generic version or cost wise for those not covered by provincial drug plans is more affordable for those on a lower or strict budget.

Why are we so drawn to the ‘quick fix’ I do not know or fully understand. I work with older adults though and many describe horrible chronic pain that makes it difficult for them to be mobile, to go out of the house, to engage in meaningful activities.

Are there other choices? Perhaps complimentary therapies or Eastern medicine might work and be worth a try. Acupuncture, massage therapy, osteopathy, exercise, aqua fitness, walking, physiotherapy, etc. Some will try homeopathy or different versions of therapy like cognitive behavior therapy, visualization or even a placebo to feel better.

No one wants to be or live in chronic pain. Pain clinics that specialize in this could be a very good resource.

We must keep in mind that there is physical pain and mental pain as well. Mental pain is what is going on inside the head where physical pain is typically the rest of the body, unless one suffers from migraines, which can be debilitating both physically and mentally.

Different medications depending on the type of pain.

Physicians need to work together and I know this can be difficult as many have huge caseloads and not enough time in the day to do so. A case manager or care manager can be an important piece/role here to work out the logistics, arrange appointments, follow-up with patients to ease the burden. Nurses, social workers, home care workers, nurse practitioners should work for the good of the patient. Collaboration is key here along with communication.

The ultimate goal is the patient and their feeling better; to make the pain  manageable.

Healthcare, News

Canadian Healthcare

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

One only has to follow the Canadian news, read the local paper or talk to health professionals who will say Socialized Medicine or Medicare needs an overhaul.

While there are many benefits to socialized medicine, basics covered; check-ups, exams, tests or treatment are covered for all who are eligible for Medicare here in Canada, there are also drawbacks, like waitlists.

As I live in the Montreal area, the focus has been on cancer treatment particularly for breast cancer. Once a diagnosis is given, it could be weeks or months until treatment begins.

Imagine you are the one to receive the diagnosis. Would you wait weeks or months? I doubt it.

Many are turning to private clinics, private hospitals or turning to the U.S.A. for quick treatment. Many are willing to pay the money involved to do so.

How about medications? Some are covered and some are not. Imagine being a senior or older adult taking 4, 6 or 10 medications daily. The provincial government  pays part or all depending on your income bracket and you as the patient are left with the balance. Medications can be very expensive and if you are living on a fixed income the choice might be medication, food or rent.

More needs to happen, more changes are needed and it should be equal across the provinces and territories.

Healthcare, News

The Need for a National Medication plan to assist older adults in Canada.