Why a Chrysalis Room in your Long Term Care Facility  or Hospital?

The evidence is in: the state of death and dying in America isn’t working for most of us.

When surveyed, 70% of us say we want to die at home yet 70% of us are dying in institutions, and one out of seven are in the ICU receiving intensive, futile, often unwanted treatment.

“Death and suffering in nursing homes have been called an ‘elaborate cover-up scheme,’ concealed and denied. Nursing homes have been described as ‘heaven’s waiting room,’ a place where death is cold, lonely, and painful.”, according to a study published in the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing.

Senior Housing News reported  “Nursing Homes Rank as Worst Setting for End-of-Life Care,” as found by an extensive CMS study.

How did we get here? Largely, by not talking about it.

By the time the sick and elderly reach a long-term care community, they have navigated multiple turning points in their health and met with dozens of medical professionals who have likely not spoken to them about what lies ahead. Because we don’t talk about death and dying, too many enter hospital emergency rooms with no advance directives and die in ICUs surrounded by loved ones who struggle to navigate a crisis for which they are completely unprepared. As a result, death, in our culture, has been reduced to a medical event.

But when we see dying instead as a spiritual process unfolding, and death as a sacred, we can bear witness to the mystery of it and fully support the person experiencing it. It is imperative that those of us who care for the sick and elderly, who house them, entertain them, protect them, are also supporting them through their inevitable death and doing everything we can to make those deaths good.

By all definitions, a “good death” is marked by these elements: being prepared for it, expecting it, having control of the outcomes, dying in a location of choice, having loved ones involved, having pain adequately managed, having one’s psycho-spiritual needs met, being treated with respect, and maintaining one’s dignity before and after death.

We can all achieve good ends by breaking the silence surrounding dying and death, and initiating conversations that normalize it, first when we are healthy, again when we lose our good health, and finally when we approach the end of life.  When we accept the end of life as part of life we can begin to plan for it, make informed decisions, share information and receive guidance

Furthermore, how do we learn how to die ourselves if we are not bearing witness to dying? Being present for the dying is to recognize the sacredness of the final transition.  This is the purpose of the Chrysalis Room: to create a private, spacious, tranquil, comfortable, esthetic space that feels like home where a person dying can feel safe and where loved ones can “be there.”

The environment in which an experience occurs can profoundly impact the quality of that experience for everyone present. A Chrysalis Room can be any such place that, when filled with comfort, care and love, becomes sacred space for keeping vigil with the dying.

 Sacred spaces have common elements.
They are protected and safe from danger.
They are quiet, serene, contemplative places.
They have soft lighting.
They are spacious yet we can be close to each other and in privacy.
They are comforting.
They invite people to be there.
Candles, flowers, music, special objects often fill them for rituals and ceremonies.
Sacred spaces facilitate personal transformation.

A private Chrysalis Room allows the resident/patient to rest in comfort and beauty, to be cared for with appropriate palliative care and be surrounded by loved ones, including beloved staff members and other residents, who are also supported with specialized care and hospitality.

You have a great opportunity to empower your staff and residents to lead an ascent up the hill to the final transition of dying rather than waging a downhill battle to prevent it.

I welcome the opportunity to share what I know and help you serve your residents and patients through the whole of their lives. Because together we can do better.