Loretta Downs, MA is an internationally recognized inspirational speaker, consultant, and writer on the subject of preparing for and supporting the end-of-life experience with comfort and dignity. Ms. Downs is a storyteller whose rich life experiences suffuse her lively presentations with love, compassion, hope and wisdom.
Over more than 30 years as a witness and companion to AIDS patients, nursing home patients, hospice patients, and friends and family nearing the end of life, she developed an informed and compassionate perspective on quality of death.
Inspired by those experiences to study dying and death, Ms. Downs retired from a successful business career in 1999 and earned a Masters Degree in Gerontology from Concordia University/Chicago. She is Past-President of the Chicago End-of-Life Care Coalition, a Metta Institute Certified End-of-Life Care Practitioner, a Certified Respecting Choices Advance Care Planning Facilitator, a Certified Senior Advisor, and a student of Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Being With Dying” training. She is a member of the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center Ethics Committee, the Association for Death Education and Counseling, the American Society on Aging and the IL Pioneer Network.
In 2007, Ms. Downs founded Chrysalis End-of-Life Inspirations to advocate for the creation of private rooms in nursing homes and hospitals where families can keep vigil with a loved one who is dying. Her reflections on the history of keeping vigil are included in an interview in the Chrysalis Room at the Fairmont Care Center in Chicago for the film “Consider the Conversation: A Documentary on a Taboo Subject” which has been shown in hospitals and universities, and on PBS stations across the country, inspiring viewers to talk about their end-of-life decisions.
Ms. Downs raises hundreds of Monarch butterflies each summer, from eggs found in her award-winning garden. She uses their mysterious stages of metamorphosis as a metaphor for the miraculous cycle of life. The story of her spiritual connection to Monarchs was featured in a Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine cover story on May 22, 2011.