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Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care ‘PHorum’ Offers Insight on Transition to Death

Psychotherapist Lani Leary provides perspective for helping loved ones live last moments on their terms

Psychotherapist Lani Leary, an expert in working with the chronically ill, dying and bereaved, was the keynote speaker at Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care’s Fourth Annual PHorum: Perspectives in Healthcare. Click to view larger
Psychotherapist Lani Leary, an expert in working with the chronically ill, dying and bereaved, was the keynote speaker at Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care’s Fourth Annual PHorum: Perspectives in Healthcare. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Psychotherapist Lani Leary has more than 25 years of experience working with chronically ill, dying and bereaved clients. She has sat with more than 500 people as they died.

“Each person’s death is unique,” she said. “It’s just as unique as the person’s life.”

Leary offered insight to more than 350 attendees at the Fourth Annual PHorum: Perspectives in Healthcare, hosted by Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care on Thursday afternoon at The Fess Parker in Santa Barbara.

It’s time to have the talk about death and dying, she said.

Having the conversation helps dying people live their last moments on their terms and with their values, fulfilling their lives, Leary said.

“One of the most important things we can do to make a difference at the end of life is to have the conversation about what we value and what we need at the end,” she said. “Have that conversation now rather than later and before you are in a crisis.”

Leary says her own experience with death has given her wisdom. She was 13 when her mother died. Her father died of cancer.

“I want to leave a message that we can make a difference at the end of our loved one’s life,” Leary said. “We can see it as an opportunity rather than a tragedy. When we do this, we frame it differently, and we have less fear and anxiety.

“How people die may have more to do with your attitudes rather than diseases.”

Leary shared perspective on how to help a dying loved one.

Listening to dying people tell stories, touching them and giving them permission to die are helpful to remember, she noted.

Lani Leary encourages an open conversation about death and dying. “We can make a difference when we change our perspective from the idea that the end of life is a tragedy to the end of life is an opportunity,” she says. Click to view larger
Lani Leary encourages an open conversation about death and dying. “We can make a difference when we change our perspective from the idea that the end of life is a tragedy to the end of life is an opportunity,” she says. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

“You can learn the skills, attitudes and competency that make a difference to someone at the end of their life,” Leary said. “We can make a difference when we change our perspective from the idea that the end of life is a tragedy to the end of life is an opportunity.”

Leary said people must confront the myths about dying.

“For instance, the myth that death is a tragedy or that children should be protected from dying and grief,” she said. “When we believe that, we stop helping. We don’t step forward and help children who are grieving.”

Among the attendees were 77-year-old Ingrid Haul and her sister-in-law.

It was Haul’s first time attending an event hosted by Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care.

“I’m interested in the topics discussed, not only for myself but for other people,” said Haul, who lives in Buellton. “I want to pass along the information about how important it is to have a health plan.”

Leary encouraged attendees seeking more information about an individual’s wishes for end-of-life care to visit the Conversation Project’s website, an organization that works in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Leary’s book, No One Has To Die Alone: Preparing for a Meaningful Death, offers additional tools to rise above fear and make a difference in the transition of death.

“I want to empower the person who is dying,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

More than 350 people attended Thursday’s Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care’s Fourth Annual PHorum: Perspectives in Healthcare at The Fess Parker in Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
More than 350 people attended Thursday’s Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care’s Fourth Annual PHorum: Perspectives in Healthcare at The Fess Parker in Santa Barbara. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

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