Death and dying to be focus of television series

St. Gabriel’s Hospital and Unity Family Home Care & Hospice are hoping to increase local awareness of death and dying issues by capitalizing on the publicity being generated from the Public Broadcasting System’s (PBS) series “On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying.”

The four-part series, which airs September 10-13, takes award-winning PBS journalist Bill Moyers, to the front lines of the national movement to improve end-of-life care. He documents the personal stories of the dying as they struggle to live their final days and to come to terms with their lives and deaths.

Maureen Nelson, RN, clinical coordinator of Unity Family Hospice, said the series is an important step forward in recognizing that end-of-life care is a critical component to the entire spectrum of health care, yet it’s rarely discussed.

“People directly involved in hospice have long understood that end-of-life care, that is delivered compassionately without unnecessary medical interventions, can be very helpful to families as well as the person who has a life-threatening illness,” Nelson said. “We need to further expose the public to the naturalness of death and that they have choices on how they deal with death. Still, we have a long way to go, unless we can help people be more open about discussing the issues surrounding end-of-life care.”

Staff members from St. Gabriel’s Hospital and Unity Family Hospice have begun planning to host follow-up sessions during Respect Life month in October. The four programs in the Moyers series each address a particular aspect of the issue of death and dying. The first program, entitled “Living with Dying,” focuses on people—patients and caregivers—who are searching for ways to recognize and talk about dying as more than a medical event.

The second installment, “A Different Kind of Care,” examines the evolution of a new kind of care commonly referred to as “palliative care,” a type of care that emphasizes the full spectrum of pain management, symptom relief and spiritual, psychological and physical support.

The third program, “A Death of One’s Own,” discusses “dying well,” the concept of exercising some measure of control over the way we die. It looks at how society is being forced to face some of the controversial aspects of dying such as physician-assisted suicide, etc.

The final program, “A Time to Change,” follows people who are championing to change public policy to improve care of the dying. Medical training, insurance coverage and relief for families shouldering the burden of end-of-life care are among the topics covered.

All programs will air from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on KTCA, Channel 2 in the Twin Cities, and from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on KAWB, Channel 22 in Pequot Lakes. Encore showings are scheduled on both stations. Please check your local listings.

For more information about “On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying,” one should call St. Gabriel’s Hospital, 632-1238.

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