Death and Dying, Death and Dying Conferences, Death and Dying Education, End-of-Life Care, End-of-Life Education, End-of-Life Planning

Beautiful Dying Expo 2020: Death and Dying Colleagues from 10+ Countries Advocate for Thoughtful Preparation and Planning for One’s Demise

November 13-15, 2020 represented three full days of listening to and interacting with “conversations on the bench” via the new Hopin.com platform at the second annual Beautiful Dying Expo, produced by author and certified end-of-life midwife Michele Little of San Diego and San Francisco, CA.

Little, with co-host Kimberly C. Paul (filmmaker, creator Death by Design, and former hospice caregiver), guided an eclectic and worthy gathering of evolved, connected and compassionate folks dedicated to End-of-Life work. They shared best practices for advance health care planning, financial and estate planning, preparing for long-term illness or sudden illness, ancient traditions and rituals for end-of-life care, green burials, grief, and more.

Screen shot of Beautiful Dying Expo 2020 on-line with Kimberly Paul co-host and Expo Founder Michelle Litle

The expo goal according to Little?  “To help you see more clearly about what’s involved in this journey and to provide you with new perspectives, resources, and connections… All of us are devoted to this sacred space.”

Participating thought leaders were from Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, The Netherlands, South Africa, and the U.S. According to Little, there were attendees from 35 countries from outside the U.S.

In addition to the seminars, Little created a public space for one-on-one video chats and personalized advice with physicians, nurses, ombudsmen, social workers, lawyers, scientists, psychologists, music thanatologists, end-of-life doulas, and others.

This historic period with COVID at the forefront, and great numbers of people dying not only alone, but unprepared and without their wishes known, has brought more awareness, reflection, and discussions about dying.

Several folks working with those who are ill, near end-of-life, or working through the aftermath have been collaborating with colleagues in an accelerated way. This expo is one of many gatherings and events on-line since the onset of the virus.

One common theme among presenters and care panels was love – “love in the time of COVID” to borrow from Gabriel Garcia Marquez – providing support in a compassionate, collaborative, gentle, holistic way plus approaches to accomplish this.

Because some presentations overlapped, many worthy presenters and their subjects were not covered. Here a few highlights:

Of note was palliative care physician and gerontologist Karl Steinberg (a speaker at the 2019 expo) whose valuable talk focused on the importance of a relationship with your physician to state emergency, long-term care, and end-of-life wishes ahead of time.  Steinberg is the current Vice President of the National POLST (Physician’s Order for Life Sustaining Treatment – known as a MOLST on the east coast). His expertise also extends to bioethics.

Screen shot of Dr. Karl Steinberg at Beautiful Dying Expo 2020 on-line

Another highlight was the session with Ken Ross, son of Elizabeth-Kubler Ross, the Swiss-American psychiatrist who normalized grief through many books, the most well-known of which is On Death and Dying. That particular book offers a model known as the five stages of grief. Ken Ross, a natural storyteller, was his mother’s caregiver the last 10 years of her life. He is carrying on his mother’s legacy through her worldwide foundation and foreign publication of her books. Ross regaled listeners with stories of travels to 20 countries with his mother.  He clarified that his mother thought grief happened in cycles, and continues – it is not a cut and dry five stages.

The Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation of Mexico, headed up by psychologist and end-of-life doula Wilka Roig, a Puerto Rican by birth, gathered a group of colleagues from other Elizabeth Kubler-Ross chapters around the world – Rodrigo Luz, a psychologist and thanatologist from Brazil, Else Groot-Alberts originally from The Netherlands but residing in New Zealand, Dr. Laura Aresca from Argentina and Uruguay, Wendy Pineda of Guatamala, and Cynthia Frahne a German psychotherapist devoted to palliative care in Argentina.

Screen shot of slide show from Ken Ross of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, see Ken in upper left corner under the street sign bearing his motther’s name

Verna Fisher, a social worker, gave an endearing and sensitive talk about how to discover what is unsaid with both patients and families, how to show up for others, and how to listen.

Keith Bradley of Final Exit Network gave a valuable talk about Advanced Health Care Directives for Dementia, and John Tastad, a thought leader in end-of-life ethics, shared about truth-telling in a gentle way.

The closing hour with Brad Wolfe, creator of Reimagine, was especially heart-felt. Wolfe spoke about the death of his cherished grandmother and what it means to love someone all the way to the end of their life. An especially poignant moment was when his father Jim Wolfe joined the talk about this delicate subject.  Reimagine is a platform to reimagine death. It has gathered over 65,000 attendees since its inception to discuss how to embrace life by facing death.  See https://www.letsreimagine.org/about 

Screen shot of Reimagine Founder Brad Wolfe with his father Jim Wolfe discussing delicate subject; Brad sings a song about beautiful dying

I was honored to attend and present at the first Beautiful Dying Expo last year in San Diego which you may read about here:

https://wellnessshepherd.com/2019/12/29/a-visit-to-the-beautiful-dying-expo-in-san-diego-california-2019/

Also see the expo’s Facebook page where you may listen to Michele Little’s informed interviews with some of the speakers.  Scroll down the FB page at

https://www.facebook.com/beautifuldyingexpo

For more information see https://www.beautifuldyingepxo.com, write to info@beautifuldyingexpo.com or call (760)944-7540.

Health & Wellness, Hospice Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Palliative Care Mexico, Senior Care Mexico

Mexican-American Nurse Elena Lopez Opens First Residential Hospice in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico

In January 2020 Los Angeles-based nurse and case manager Elena Lopez realized the first part of a 20+ year vision – to return to Mexico to open a hospice, the first in her native state of Michoacan.

HOLA Hospice of the Angels/Hospicio de los Angeles Founder Elena Lopez
with Charge Nurse Claudia

There have been previous efforts since the 1970’s to create hospice homes in Mexico following models in Canada, the UK, and the U.S. For financial reasons, as well as the predominant family cultural value of caring for the ill at home through end-of-life, the hospice home model with others doing the caring has yet to be accepted or sustainable. There have been hospice homes but none have survived.

How will Lopez create a sustainable model?

Lopez’ residence Hospice of the Angels has married assisted living care with rooms for hospice. Assisted living is a concept prevalent in every state of Mexico.

Lopez has attracted not only local Michoacanos but Mexican-Americans with life-limiting illnesses who wish to live their last months in their native land. Note: It costs families in the U.S. up to $20,000 or more for remains to be shipped from the U.S. for traditional Catholic burial. Choosing Mexico for end-of-life helps defray these expenses for Mexicans living in Canada or the U.S. and allows local family to be present.

Lopez continues to train staff – nurses, caregivers, and volunteers, despite the pandemic -based on her professional experience in California at VITAS, Kaiser Permanente, and in private service. In 2020 her staff also received End-of-Life doula training (psycho-social practical and ritual support) with psychologist and doula Wilka Roig of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation of central Mexico. Roig is headquartered in San Miguel de Allende. (See www.ekrmexico.org ).

Hospice of the Angels currently has 10 assisted living residents. The home hosted five hospice patients this year. There are 15 staffers including Luisa Fernanda Ruiz Montiel psychologist/tanatologist who holds a PhD (former professor), the accountant, and an attorney.

Despite COVID, Lopez and team have managed to keep the virus out of the home, and, host fundraisers. Residents are busy with small therapy dogs, arts and crafts, visits by priests, and music performances. Recently, American hospice nurse Ian McCartor, known for creating inspirational Legacy Songs for his patients in English and Spanish, played and sang at the home.

Priest visits residents and staff at HOLA Hospice of the Angels/Hospicio de los Angeles in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico

An out-patient hospice service in Morelia and neighboring areas has not been deemed practical. It is considered unsafe to send doctors, nurses, and caregivers out at night due to heavy cartel activity.

At Hola Hospice of the Angels, each room offers a bed for the patient and a bed for a family member, a model first instituted in Mexico by Dra Susana Lua Nava at Juntos Contra el Dolor, the first and only level one 24/7 palliative care hospital in the neighboring state of Jalisco.  See www.JuntosContraelDolor.com

Mexican end-of-life care is provided through out-patient or in-home services in most states. Since the Mexican Palliative Care Law of 2009, there is now a broader view for care of the ill that includes those with life-limiting, painful illnesses that may last many years.

How to find Hospice of the Angels:

Fundación Hospicio de los Ángeles

Miguel Silva 149  Morelia, Michoacan de Ocampo, 58260, Mexico

Website: www.HospiceoftheAngels.org

Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/Fundacion-Hospicio-de-Angeles-450224751784959/ 

Tel.  52 443 275-0279 office; 52 443 331-6647 cell; and USA cell 213 706-1111

Additional hospice project for Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico:

Lopez is collaborating simultaneously with a Michoacano whose life dream has been to open a home for older adults. The gentleman donated land in a tranquil forest area. Part of the home will be dedicated to assisted living and nursing care, the other part to hospice which will be headed up by Lopez. Architect Ivan Marin of Morelia will fuse old Michoacano style (lots of wood) with Japanese Zen-style structure – healing light, views to nature from all sides, and tranquility (a hard-to-find concept in Mexico). Two years ago Lopez and Marin travelled to Japan to study hospice and architectural concepts they could incorporate. Lopez says she envisions a quiet, meditative, sacred place. They plan to break ground within two years.

Wendy Jane Carrel, MA, is a Spanish-speaking senior care specialist, consultant, and Mexico senior living writer from California. She has travelled Mexico for several years researching health systems, senior care, and end-of-life care in order to connect Americans, Canadians, and Europeans with options for loved ones. She has investigated hundreds of senior housing choices in 16 Mexican states. Her web site is http://www.WellnessShepherd.com.