Monday, October 22, 2012

Death With Dignity - A Life Review

 There is much research and much written about end-of-life care. We ignore much of it, as well.
It is my premise that the research-based Life Review is an important part of palliative care.

The recommendation is that nurses do this, but I think this is something trained hospice volunteers should do with their clients. For tech-savvy volunteers, we can put these answers into a PPT or an iMovie. I did this for a friend, Michele, who is paraplegic and living in LTC in Muskoka. I wrote about her in my book - of which she is very proud!

Celebration of life: Michele, Ma Belle!

Life Review Biography Project from Jennifer Jilks on Vimeo.
My friend, Michele, resides in long-term care. She is paraplegic, with spinal stenosis, but spent 41 years nursing. Doing a life review for her, using her scanned photos, helped to remind her of her accomplishments, her achievements, and the purpose her life had for many years.

Life Review Questions

  • Tell me about your childhood. 
  • What was school like?
  •  What about your teenage years? 
  •  Did you like school? 
  • What did you do for fun in your youth? 
  • What is your favourite food?      
  •  Tell me about your family members. 
  •  What about your best friends? 
  •  Tell me about overcoming an obstacle in your life. 
  •  What is your deepest regret or disappointment in your life? 
  •  What do you think are the most important things about life? 
  •  What are your life’s achievements? 
  •  What do you find are the most satisfying things in life?
  •  Who have you admired and why? 
  •  Describe the kind of person you have been. 
  •  What were the happiest moments in your life? 
  •  What messages would you like to leave your family? 
  •  What mystifies you about life today?  

Of course, for those with social work training, you can get into spiritual, philosophical questions, as I often do. It is the volunteer or clos family member (e.g. a daughter-in-law) that the care recipient often goes to for details about his/her funeral, their spiritual beliefs, fears, or about their pain.
The wise patient advocate gets into these issues as a trained volunteer, or as an advocate who can make the client more comfortable.

  •  Are you in pain?
  • Do you have any questions you would like answered about your care, treatment plan, comfort measures, pain medications, et al.
  • What are your beliefs about death?
  • What do you fear about death? 

This is adapted from a nursing article

Life Review in Critical CarePossibilities at the ... - Critical Care Nurse

Life Review in Critical Care: Possibilities (PDF)CCNurse. 2010;30: 17-27 Mimi Jenko, Leah Gonzalez and Paul Alley. Critical Care Nurse, Vol 30, No. 1, FEBRUARY 2010 27


I have made videos with clients, or written up their Life Reviews for them. I make sure I write down any comments they make about how proud they are of their spouses or adult children who are providing care.

See also: another blog post:

End-of-Life Care Standards

Two important articles for professionals and staff.

Death With Dignity from Jennifer Jilks on Vimeo.
A presentation to Heart of Hastings Hospice.

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