Myths about Dying
Many pervasive cultural misconceptions about dying exist that can interfere with people receiving the best possible care at the end of life. Debunking these myths and understanding the realities can allow caregivers to better support dying persons and their loved ones."Death is too frightening to talk about" "It's not normal to talk bout death"
- Death has been remote, hidden away in the back rooms of hospitals. There is a taboo about talking of death even through death is a normal part of life. Everything that lives dies. Death can be a positive experience not only for the dying person but also for family and friends. In order to be a positive experience we must recognize the needs of dying persons as well as the needs of their caregivers. The family must be aware that dying persons have special needs that can be met."People die as they have lived"
- This is generally true, yet it is also possible for people to change. If people receive excellent care during their last illness there can be great opportunity reminiscence, for forgiveness of past difficulties, and for spiritual growth. This is only possible if there is good communication and openness among patient, caregivers, and family."Dying is always painful"
- This is one of the most common misconceptions about dying. Pain can be relieved safely without any danger of death or addiction. Hospice caregivers and most doctors are familiar with the proper use of analgesic drugs. When given in the correct dose at the right time, pain can be relieved without sedating the patient. When pain is relieved, patients can experience a good quality of life until the time that death occurs. Good pain management does not shorten the course of life. On the contrary, patients who receive excellent pain management tend to live longer than expected.
"While dying, people see a white light, a tunnel, etc."
- In general, this is not true. As people die there are physical and chemical changes in the brain that result in a gradual loss of consciousness. Some people experience what are known as delusions, illusions, or hallucinations, similar to dreaming while still awake. Some persons relate seeing relatives who have previously died. In almost all instances, these last visions are usually pleasant and offer comfort to the dying person, especially regarding the prospect of reuniting with deceased loved ones.