Death in Mexico, Ex-pats in Mexico, Hospice Mexico, Palliative Care Mexico

Expats in San Miguel de Allende Contemplate A Thoughtful Death

This month I had the honor of participating in an on-going Zoom conversation about A Thoughtful Death with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. 

Care team member Lydia Jane Failing was the lively and engaged producer and host. Many thanks to her and team members Wilka Roig (co-host), Francoise Yohalem, Joan Wolf, and Rev Tom Rosiello.

Articulate and engaging producer/host Lydia Jane Failing of UUF SMA

They are dedicated to discussing why and how it may be wise for non-Mexican residents (full or part-time) to prepare for their demise legally, psychologically, and spiritually in Mexico.

I adore informal chats but for whatever reason when it was announced the conversation would be recorded just as we began, my energy froze and I omitted helpful information. I sounded like a newbie instead of someone comfortable and experienced. Yikes!!!

Some clarifications for the listeners:

  1. Palliative Care

Freedom from pain is a humanitarian right. Few countries are able to provide it in part or fully. When it exists, it is provided by a trained and empathetic team of doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, chaplains, nutritionists and volunteers creating palliar (Latin) – comfort, support, and protection. This support extends to patient’s families and other loved ones.

Mexico has had a palliative care law since 2009 (modified in 2014). It states everyone is entitled to relief from pain, especially in the last six months of life. Few places in Mexico are able to provide or sustain such an important and needed service. Few people know the law exists, let alone where to go and how to access needed services.

Juntos Contra el Dolor, A. C. in Guadalajara is the first and only 24/7 palliative care hospital in the state of Jalisco. Its founder is nun physician Dra Susana Lua Nava, a palliative care thought leader. Every person, physicians included, is a volunteer except for two civilian palliative care nurses (day and night shift), and the cleaning lady. My social service for Juntos coordinating patient care, “companioning”at the bedside, community outreach, and raising funds has been and continues to be as a volunteer.  All donations go directly to http://www.JuntosContraelDolor.com .

  1. Lydia Jane asked: How do you bring a level of spiritual acceptance to the people you encounter when their transition is imminent?  

I do my best to live by one motto: “The secret of the care of the patient is caring for the patient” – Dr. Francis W. Peabody at the Harvard Medical School, 1925.

When I am invited in, I recognize that someone is willing to share exceptionally sacred, tender, even mystical moments. It is an honor to companion.

Human engagement is about feelings. Each experience is different, intangible.

I do my best to bring authentic presence and friendship.

I say a prayer or meditate before I enter that I will bring my best in honor of this sentient being.

After introducing myself, I ask permission. Would you like me to accompany you?

If accepted, so far no one has said no, I learn what environment this person wishes for and imagines.

Windows and curtains open? Flowers or no flowers? Candles or no candles? Perhaps anointment with frankincense? Music or quiet? More pillows, a change of dressing gown? Bathing each day? Linen changes each day? Photos nearby?. Practical considerations. Then, sit quietly with full attention to needs of water, nourishment, and more.

“Companioning” seems to involve spontaneous creativity, trusting intuition about the care of the soul before you.

For those who are anxious, I guide breathing exercises which seem to help.

Each person teaches me, not the other way around. There are no rules. I feel any of us may be present by sitting quietly, hand holding (if wished for), and being open to whatever arrives. The journey is always theirs, not ours.

In my experience, most folks have answers inside as long as the person at the bedside is there as support. We are listening posts, and on occasion guides. I listen until something appears, perhaps a clue or a cue. Invariably feelings are expressed. The process is usually slow.

In my experience people who are fading surprise themselves into acceptance, but not all. Some folks see someone waiting for them. Most folks seem to wish a witness alongside, someone honoring their existence in order to lapse into peace. Others may prefer to make their transition alone and will do so when everyone has left the room.

Invariably, the process follows divine timing.

Note: my service as a companion to the ill and their families in Mexico is as a volunteer. 

  1. No burials of bodies on your property in California. Ashes of loved ones have been known, however, to be buried not just at sea but under trees, rose bushes, and more.

More thank yous:

My appreciation for our conversation extends to talented designer and technology wiz Diana Amaya for making certain we were appropriately situated. Thanks also to Wilka Roig psychologist, death doula, Director of Elizabeth Kubler Ross Foundation SMA, and first speaker.

Dr. Pepe Valencia, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Dr. Pepe Valencia, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

On June 10 San Miguel de Allende gerontologist and thanatologist Dr. Pepe Valencia talked candidly about how he has overcome government and church challenges as they relate to serving patients in pain at end-of-life in Mexico. He has been serving older adult residents, expats in particular, for over 40 years. Here is the link to his talk:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbKJ3N1q_kA&t=400s

On June 17 Carlos F Chancellor, Jungian-Archetypal Psychotherapist, Somatic Movement Educator, Integration Therapist, Dream Worker, Mythologist and Storyteller joined the program. His sensitive and healing talk can be listened to at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iFcrgQadZc&t=107s

On June 20, Felicitas Rusch-Lango, a life coach and yoga instructor offered breathing exercises to calm anxiety, poetry, Buddhist wisdom, and more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7yTnvhQyes

Wilka Roig is continuing the A Thoughtful Death dialogues through the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation Central Mexico.  Please write info@ekrmexico.org or Wilka at info@wilkaroig.com for more information on how to participate. The June 30 talk was by a member of the Green Burial Council in the U.S.

May this find you, your loved ones and all beings well and healthy. 

Deep bows

Wellness Shepherd Wendy   

 

Assisted Living, Assisted Living Mexico, Death in Mexico, Dying in Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Senior Care Mexico

Corona Virus Changes Plans for Jalisco, Mexico Older Adults, Travelers, and the World

Corona Virus is changing where we might be, what we are choosing to do, or what we are restricted from following through with in order to protect the health of others.

This is not a complaint. But it has come to signify postponing meaningful work or gatherings in person, especially with the vulnerable who depend on the presence of family and others who support them.

Circumstances have already created loss and a sense of abandonment for our elders worldwide. You may recall the sad circumstances of elders alone in ICU’s in Italy, as well as in assisted living homes in Georgia and Washington State in recent days where family members may not enter to hold their loved ones as they make their transitions.

Note: This post is being written from Jalisco, Mexico where I have been attending to older adults.

The state of Jalisco  (second largest state with Guadalajara as its capital), lead by Governor Alfaro and public health officials, is doing its best to tame the rise of Corona virus. There are several cases throughout the state, reportedly brought in by a group of wealthy Mexicans who traveled to Colorado to ski in mid-March or by travelers (foreign and Mexican) returning from Germany, Italy, and Spain. All persons except those in necessary services have been asked to stay inside through March 29 except for buying provisions or medicine. No travel unless necessary is another request. It is likely the date will be extended. Borders are still open but flights to other nations have diminished.  So far, not a single assisted living home in Jalisco has reported a case of the Corona virus.

I had plans to see colleagues in the Mexican highlands and then return home to California.  Plans have changed.

I wish to thank several colleagues whom I was going to meet with or revisit in March and early April – folks dedicated to the well-being of older adults.  May we meet again soon.

1001 thanks to Lydia Jane Failing, Francoise Yohalem, and Rev. Tom Roseillo of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship outreach in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Warmest greetings and blessings to each of you, your fellowship, and your community-at-large.

I so appreciated your kind invitation to participate in the seminar “Thoughtful Dying in Mexico” with other colleagues March 20, even though it was necessary to postpone as a form of protection for all. My topic was to have been spiritual aspects of dying in Mexico based on psycho-social-spiritual support of older adults at Lake Chapala, plus my involvement with a palliative care mission in Guadalajara.

My thanks also to the owners of assisted living homes in San Miguel de Allende and Cuernavaca who were waiting for me, as well as to hospice nurse Elena Lopez of Hola Hospice and Luz Serena, an assisted living home in central Morelia with two rooms offering American standard hospice.  I look forward to visiting all of you and writing about your dedication to quality of life for older adults on other dates.

Many thanks to Café Mortality colleagues Debi Buckland, Jane Castleman, Loretta Downs, and Darryl Painter for their dedication at Lake Chapala. We cancelled gatherings for March and April for public health reasons.

Discussions of our wishes and mortality, especially at this time of crisis, may have been meaningful for attendees, not to mention this co-host. We will find other ways to reach out through Facebook posts and more.

And, last but not least, a big shout out to my care liaison colleague in San Miguel de Allende, Deborah Bickel of www.BeWellSanMiguel.com who is deluged with requests for assistance at this time. Deborah’s colleague, nurse practitioner Sue Leonard, was to have been on the UU Fellowship morning panel on March 20.

Where ever you are and whomever you are I pray you are safe, comfortable, and remembering to breathe.  As we reflect on the health of those around us, our own health, and new ways to reach out, let us remember the greater dangers for those less fortunate – the elderly, the homeless, and immigrants on the road, in camps, or in cages.

Please remember our healthcare workers, first responders, drivers, and food purveyors.

Please consider volunteering by sending money to a cause dear to your heart and/or healing thoughts for everyone on your path and on the planet.

And, remember to keep reading inspiring stories if you choose about nail salons converting to sewing centers to make masks, the Chinese manufacturer who sent medical masks in crates to healthcare workers in Italy with a poem by Seneca, the Italians who sing on their balconies to each other, the Spaniards who stand on their balconies applauding healthcare workers as they go off shift at a nearby hospital, the small businesses and their drivers offering take-out throughout the world, and thousands of other folks who make sacrifices as they continue to show up for others.