weekly blog--one for the ages
Well not yet anyway. Over the last few weeks, I’ve run across two terms worth noting: Death Doulas and Ethical Wills.
The work of a Death Doula is to help someone ease the passage from this world to the next. Sometimes it’s just sitting with a person in silence just to keep them company. Sometimes it’s helping with physical care, or assisting family members with errands and household chores.
The main job of a Death Doula is to listen, without judgment, to honor the experience of both the dying person and their loved ones, and to facilitate meaningful interactions between them. The people who train to become a Death Doula say they feel almost inexplicably called to the role, and profoundly touched by the experience.
An Ethical Will is a way to share your values, life’s lessons, hopes and dreams for the future, love and forgiveness with family and friends before passing on. It’s not a legal document, but has roots in Judeo-Christian tradition going back to the Bible (Genesis), where a dying Jacob gathered his sons to offer them his blessing and to request that they bury him in a cave in Canaan instead of Egypt.
Today, an ethical is written by men and women of every age, ethnicity, faith tradition, economic circumstance, and educational level. It is used as a tool for spiritual healing in religious communities and in health care with seniors, the ailing, the aged, and the dying. Estate and financial professionals use the ethical will as a foundation to help clients articulate their values, make charitable and personal financial decisions, and prepare a last will and testament.
One for the road…Participants in Medicare’s Care Choices pilot program can now receive home-hospice care while also pursuing curative treatments. To do so, they must have cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure (CHF), or HIV, and be admitted to one of the nation’s 140 participating hospice programs. STAT
On the Alzheimer’s front, researchers have discovered an anti-microbial peptide that is capable of cleaning up the neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques that are believed to cause Alzheimer’s disease (AD). They have also developed a method of creating tangles and plaques in a laboratory environment to test new drugs.
Also to know about AD:
On the Cancer front, we are in the early stages of seeing the development of Polymolecular Botanical Drugs that can work independently or in conjunction with chemotherapy to eliminate or reduce the size of tumors. They can also be used to reduce the level of glucose which fuel tumor growth.
One drug, Epidiferphane (EDP), is composed of natural ingredients including green tea, curcumin, and broccoli powder. Another treatment approach, Cancerna, is a patented regiment using EDP along with a type of ketogenic diet (used to treat difficult-to-control epilepsy in children) with 60 percent fat, 20 percent carbs and 20 percent protein. Cancerna is often used with conventional chemotherapy or used to give the patient a “drug holiday.”
Also, researchers are beginning to look at complex adaptive systems (CAS) for answers to AD, Cancer and other chronic diseases. CAS’s consist of many diverse and autonomous components or parts, called agents, which are interrelated, and behave as a unified whole in learning from experience and adjusting to changes in the environment. Each individual agent of a CAS is itself a CAS. For example a tree is a CAS within a larger CAS, a forest, which is a CAS in still a larger CAS, an ecosystem.
In the Jewish calendar, the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is known as the ‘10 days of Awe’. Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale which transcends our current understanding of things. A recent University of California/Berkeley study concluded that ‘Awe’ can also help fend off chronic inflammation that is linked with many age-related, lifespan-shortening disorders such as heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and diabetes.
The kinds of Awe that the researchers studied included people’s responses to nature and beauty, views of the Grand Canyon, listening to Schubert’s Ave Maria, walking through a beautiful forest, and viewing great works of art like the Sistine Chapel. You can also add prayer to the list.
Physiologically, these ‘awesome’ events provoked positive emotional responses in people which led them to produce lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, the hormonal messengers which tell our bodies to ramp up our inflammatory response so that our immune systems work harder.
The bottom line: positive emotions play a large part in a person’s total well-being, both inside and out.
As part of HubWeek, I attended a panel discussion last Friday about Ageless Aging. Sorry to report that there are no elixirs in the immediate future. But don’t be surprised if it turns out to be a protein found in the blood called GDF11 that slows down the biological aging process. A Harvard University research team published a paper two years ago that reported that injecting old mice with GDF11 can partially reverse age-related thickening of the heart. Another study showed that a blood protein called GDF8 kept muscles from weakening.
Meanwhile, researchers express their goal to stop or reverse the aging in terms of lifespan and health span. Lifespan is the length of life for an organism. The maximum recorded lifespan for humans, reported in 2010, was 122.5 years for females and 116 years for males. Health span are the years you live in relatively good health. However, no matter how long you live, whether it’s into the 70s, 80s, 90s or100s, at some point you are likely to succumb to one or more of the diseases of aging—most often more than one.
Until the magic anti-aging pill arrives, there are more modest ways to extend your health span: stay trim and slim, eat healthy foods, exercise every day (physical and mental), reduce stress and sugar in-take, and get out and meet people (socialization). Two other factors that play a large part in determining how long you will live: family genes and your blood pressure level.
A New Section to the ConfrontingAging website: http://www.confrontingaging.com/you-know-you-are-aging-when.html