Final Journeys: A Practical Guide for Bringing Care and Comfort at the End of Life Paperback – 24 Mar 2009
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"What do we all want, when we approach the inevitable? For a wise, hilarious, sensitive, and pragmatic nurse to sit at our bedside and tell us truths that are helpful, healing, and humane. Maggie Callanan is just that nurse, and Final Journeys is exactly that truth-telling."--Stephen P. Kiernan, author of "Last Rights: Rescuing the End of Life from the Medical System
""Maggie Callanan is one of the most experienced, smart and fierce hospice nurses I know. Her insights ring true, and her wise, confident voice is an invaluable companion through this unfamiliar and often frightening final journey."--Ira Byock, M.D., Professor of Palliative Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School and author of "Dying Well "and "The Four Things That Matter Most
""Filled with warmth, insight, compassion, and personal stories, Final Journeys will prepare you for your own transition, and it is must reading for everyone who has relatives and loved ones who are aging, seriously ill, or dying."--Bill Guggenheim, co-author of "Hello from Heaven!"
What do we all want, when we approach the inevitable? For a wise, hilarious, sensitive, and pragmatic nurse to sit at our bedside and tell us truths that are helpful, healing, and humane. Maggie Callanan is just that nurse, and Final Journeys is exactly that truth-telling. Stephen P. Kiernan, author of "Last Rights: Rescuing the End of Life from the Medical System
" Maggie Callanan is one of the most experienced, smart and fierce hospice nurses I know. Her insights ring true, and her wise, confident voice is an invaluable companion through this unfamiliar and often frightening final journey. Ira Byock, M.D., Professor of Palliative Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School and author of "Dying Well "and "The Four Things That Matter Most
" Filled with warmth, insight, compassion, and personal stories, Final Journeys will prepare you for your own transition, and it is must reading for everyone who has relatives and loved ones who are aging, seriously ill, or dying. Bill Guggenheim, co-author of "Hello from Heaven!""
About the Author
Maggie Callanan, R.N., has specialized in the care of the dying since 1981. She lectures widely to lay and professional audiences on death and dying, bereavement, and hospice care. Maggie is the author of Final Journeys and co-author of Final Gifts. She lives on the New England coast.
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Like the author herself, Final Journeys is intensely practical and straightforward, flashed with humor and warmed by an all-pervasive empathy. A sampling of chapter titles hints of honest looks at difficult questions: "Don't Tell Mom She's Dying. It'll Kill Her!"; "Choosing Treatments--and Knowing Which Are Optional"; "`We Can't Just Let Him Starve to Death!': Deciding About Artificial Nutrition"; "Finding Power in a Powerless Situation"; "I Love You, Mom, and I Want to Help, but I'm Not Moving to Miami!"
From recognizing what's fixable and what's not...understanding when not to call 911...talking to the children...dealing with the out-of-town family member who swoops in ready to take charge...to an explanation of the Medicare hospice benefit and the dying person's Bill of Rights--what Callanan does is make the unthinkable manageable.
Who is this book for? For everyone who will one day die and wants to be as ready as possible. For anyone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and for the family members and friends of that person who wonder what to expect and how to cope. For anyone who thinks calling hospice is equivalent to "giving up." For every public library (I have already suggested that my library order two). For hospice and palliative care volunteers.
Readers who have been enthusiastic about Final Gifts--and who isn't?--will welcome this companion work, which seems bound to become a classic alongside its sister title.
Nancy Evans Bush, MA
Vice President and Chair of Publications
International Association for Near-Death Studies, Inc.
I read Ms. Callanan's first book, Final Gifts, several years ago and it gave me great insight into how I could better relate to someone who is dying. In this book she really addresses the dying process from the side of the caregiver, and I couldn't thank her more. I read this as my own father was dying and I think I used something from every chapter to help my father pass a little more comfortably, and to help keep my family and me from going crazy with stress.
I would encourage people to read this book. Even if you don't know someone who is dying, you never know when this sort of info will turn out to be needed. God bless.
One of the most useful aspects is her description of symptoms of the end of life that are typical, yet which we might not recognize and respect for what they are. As the author makes clear, there is no one path for the final journey, and it behooves those nearby to recognize and respect the style of their loved one. For example, in an attempt to "be there for them" it is possible to tire the patient with too much attention, as they are attempting to rest and "wind down." Equally, it is necessary to recognize when they may need to see a certain person in order to accomplish the task of closure and resolving "unfinished business" with that person. It is necessary to listen closely to the patient without one's preconceived notions intervening. Spiritual, dietary, and companionship needs vary widely depending on the patient; it's truly not "one size fits all."
Callanan defines a problem that I and perhaps many of us have experienced: the feeling that your loved ones will find it terribly sad, almost impossible, to go on with their lives without us when we die. Apparently in many cases, one important task of the caregivers is to give the patient permission to go, assuring them that we will be all right afterwards, while acknowledging the closeness of the bond between us.
Callanan is so remarkable in her ability to convey her experiences and feelings through stories that you will be completely engaged throughout this book with a renewed appreciation of her humanistic approach to nursing. Her caring approach to both the patient and the family rescues some potentially explosive situations with people you come to care about through her descriptions. And if you can read Chapter 35 without shedding a few tears, you really need to have your DNA checked out to make sure you're really human!
I think one of my favorite quotes that I often think about is
"It is as normal to die as it is to be born. And yet somehow, when a terminal diagnosis is made, there is often a sense of being robbed. But in truth, dying is our last developmental task. When and how we must confront it is the mystery. The fact that we must is not." I like that.... "last developmental task"
You can read the first chapter online an that will give you a sense of where she is coming from and her writing style. Of her two books, this is definitely the better, although I found the first one useful as well. But Final Journeys is a little more polished. Same format -- patient vignettes, used to illustrate the point she is making.
Death and the meaning of life of course are incredibly personal things seen through the lens of religion and not. But I think there is enough commonality of experience for all. This book does an incredible balancing act across that spectrum that anyone from the pope to Christopher Hitchens will find its content helpful AND well presented.
If you are reading this Maggie Callanan, thanks for the help!