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Living Emotionally Well, With Serious Illness

Guest article by Ellen Rand

As a hospice volunteer, one of the many things I’ve come to understand is that everyone faces serious illness and the prospect of death differently. There’s simply no “right way” or “wrong way” to approach it. But I’ve also come to understand that it is possible to be at peace with oneself through the end of life, having experienced moments of real joy along the way.

I’ve certainly seen ample examples of the alternative, though, and it is heartbreaking. There was “Bobby,” who was suffering with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), who railed angrily about the fact that there was no hope for him, and for whom there was no pleasure to be found in day-to-day life. He lived his last months in his brother’s home, where he didn’t have the company of his three beloved dogs, and he died without having a chance to say goodbye to them.

And there was “Jane,” a widow declining quickly from cancer that had spread to her bones, who was in a literal race against time trying to make living arrangements for her two adopted teenage daughters. Often refusing pain medication because she hated the way it made her feel, refusing family and friends’ offers to help until she was desperate, she badly wanted to tie up all the loose ends in her life but fell into a coma before she could.

Anger, sadness, resentment, shock, denial, resignation, isolation – or some combination of all of these intense reactions – are not unusual when people learn of a life-limiting illness. And, just as we cannot simply advise anyone suffering depression to “snap out of it,” we cannot simply persuade those, like “Bobby” and “Jane,” that there still remain moments worth savoring and life itself full of meaning.

In spite of much evidence to the contrary, though, I believe that repair, resolution, reconciliation and even redemption are possible through the end of life. And working to achieve them is an important way to enable us to live emotionally and spiritually well in the face of serious illness.

For those whose lives have been particularly difficult, it can help to work on changing perspectives on old, painful narratives that continue to hurt and haunt the present. Toward that end, consulting with a geriatric psychiatrist or psychologist could be especially fruitful.

The best example of how a person can live so emotionally well is the writer Ronni Bennett, who blogs at “Time Goes By.” ( In her late ‘70s, Bennett learned a year ago that her pancreatic cancer had metastasized and that there were treatment options but no cure for her condition. So Bennett decided to write about it and to keep on writing as long as she can, because for her that was a way of better understanding herself. Her hope was to approach the last chapter of her life “alert, aware and lucid,” she said. Besides being great company on the page, she is honest above all, sharing the good, the bad, the ugly and the amusing elements of her life.

Writing is certainly one way to understand and express who we are. But we can also choose other invaluable creative outlets: doing audio or video messages for family or friends; reviewing photo albums and talking about those special moments and memories; listening to the music that pleases us. Or we can quietly reflect about our life, about what has given it meaning and purpose.

The hospice and palliative care pathfinder Ira Byock, ( founder and chief medical officer for the Institute for Human Caring of Providence St. Joseph Health, often says, “Death has a lot to teach us, if we let it.” Specifically, he advises focusing on what matters most and communicating about that with your loved ones. That can be summarized in four key phrases: I love you. I forgive you. Please forgive me. Thank you.

In other words, to quote the singer John Mayer, we should say what we need to say, to the people we need to say it to, while we can.

Whatever form of creative expression or communication we choose, let’s keep in mind Ronni Bennett’s basic insight: “However short or long my remaining days may be, it is a great gift I have received, knowing my death is near. It led to what I think is the most important question in the circumstance: what do you want to do with the time that remains?”

That’s a great question for all of us. If our aim is to reach the end of our lives feeling at peace with our life, then asking that question is the first step we need to take.


Ellen Rand is author of Last Comforts: Notes from the Forefront of Late Life Care. She blogs at A hospice volunteer with Holy Name Medical Center in Bergen County, NJ, she has been a journalist for more than 40 years.


Guest article from Long Island Interventions

In the United States, 13 percent of the population is above the age of 65. This group accounts for more than 33 percent of the prescription drugs bought in the country. Unfortunately, seniors are prone to abusing their prescription pain medication. One way to improve the quality of life of those seniors addicted to prescription painkillers is through medically supervised pain management. In order to prescribe the right dosages of medication for treatment, the individual must be properly diagnosed.

Prescription pain pills usually include opioids, and are addictive in nature. They influence the pain-relieving effects of chemicals produced in the brain. The temporary pleasure that they provide leads people to keep using more doses of the drug so that the same effect can be achieved; this leads to addiction. Painful withdrawal symptoms can occur when the individual stops taking these medications.

What Is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prescription drug addiction occurs when people misuse prescribed medications and use them in a way that is not recommended by their physician. Prescription drug abuse can also occur when people take an improper dosage or when they use a prescription that’s not meant for them, whether by accident or purposefully. Mixing medicine with alcohol is also a form of abuse which can lead to addiction.

Causes of Prescription Painkiller Addiction in Seniors

There are different factors that could cause seniors to abuse prescription painkillers. The reasons could be a result of health issues or life-changing events that had a negative emotional effect. Some of the most common triggers for seniors to begin abusing pain pills is retirement, death of a loved one (spouse, family member, or friend), financial problems, relocation, family problems, inability to sleep, and mental and physical health issues. Once the cycle of addiction begins, the first step to getting better is a recovery center such as the Long Island opioid detox program.

Why Are Seniors At Risk Of Misusing Prescription Pain Pills?

Most seniors that misuse prescription pain pills usually do so by accident. This group of people takes more medication than other age groups, as about 30 percent of people between the ages of 57 to 85 use at least five prescriptions. As a result, seniors are more likely to get hooked on one of their many prescriptions. Old age also reduces the ability of the body to absorb and filter medicine, meaning seniors can easily become addicted to prescription pain pills, even when lower doses are taken.

When To Ask For Help

Prescription painkiller addiction is a condition that shouldn’t be ignored. If you know an older adult that is addicted to prescription painkillers, there are Long Island addiction treatment centers that can help. Treatment for addiction depends on the individual that’s struggling with the addiction, the kind of medication that is being abused, the level of addiction, as well as the nature of withdrawal symptoms experienced. However, with the right treatment center and support, seniors can overcome addiction to live a happy, healthy life.

Easy Dance Exercises for Older Adults

Happy Seniors dancing to Beauty Hula. Groove along gently with us here in this Senior MUVE dance exercise video. MUVE dance-along exercises for seniors are a great way to loosen up and get all body-parts moving. They are not only workouts to get in shape, but also a great way to relax and reduce stress.This spontaneous dance along is from the beginner dance exercise dvd Mellow MUVE. It features easy dance steps that anyone can do. The best part is that you can invite your whole family to join you in this easy dance workout. Because all movements are customized to each dancers needs, your children and grand children can dance exercise with you right at home. The only way to really know what these spontaneous dances feel like is to actually do them! You will be surprised how easy it is to let yourself be inspired by the music and the easy moves, that’s what makes working out fun with MUVE.

Weight Exercises for Seniors

Great weight lifting exercise for seniors to build arm and upper body strength are the bicep curl and shoulder press. Lift weights properly with tips from a professional personal trainer in this free video on exercising for seniors.

Yoga for Seniors

Yoga for Seniors: The Whole Body with Michelle Rubin

Michelle gently strengthens and stretches the whole body, all while seated in a chair. It’s perfect for seniors