Peace at Last: Reflections of my Dad’s Final Days

I lost my wonderful Dad this past Saturday night. It was the most difficult experience of my life watching him die a natural death during his last week. A week before he died he ate his last scrambled egg, and by the next day he didn’t want anything to drink aside from very small sips to keep down the inevitable dryness and choking. This is a biological reaction when the body is failing and is in the early stages of death.

As the week went along we noticed that Dad’s pulse rate went up gradually, yet his blood pressure was normal as was the oxygen level in his blood.  I wondered how long he could live with no nourishment. He told us how much he loved us and we had a lot of kisses. He has always been loving so this behavior was an extension of the man we knew and loved. As the days progressed he choked more often and found it harder to bring it up. Dying people can’t swallow over time and as they become increasingly dehydrated, they have less to swallow, so it’s a lot more concentrated than a healthy person’s saliva. We helped him get the “stuff” out of his mouth and I started to smell death a few days before he died.

We all cope with death differently.  My Mom kept telling my Dad that he looked good, and that everything would be OK. As the week passed, she changed her tune to thanking him for all the wonderful years and all the joy and love he had given her. They were married for 62 years which is so awesome!  Mom kept chattering to him and wiping his face to give him relief. It seemed to me he would rather have been left alone to be quiet for some of this time.

My brother, Steve, stood by and continued his toil to keep Dad comfortable by changing his adult diapers, cleaning him and finding ways to make his life more pleasant. His bedside manner was better than incredible. He gave my Dad such comfort, and had been caring for him every weekend since May 2008 earning him the title of Saint Steve.

In these last couple of weeks we shifted his body to prevent bed sores. He much preferred being on his back, but after a few days he seemed to be uncomfortable regardless of what position he was in. He had this odd restlessness where he wanted to rub his head and eyes quite often. I gradually realized that this was a form of anxiety and that pharmaceuticals could help this. It took me a couple of days to realize that this was anxiety and not just a nervous habit.

I had the honor of sitting with Dad the last night of his life. It was frustrating as by now his breathing was labored, and I wasn’t sure how often I could give him pharmaceuticals such as morphine. I was afraid to give it to him while he slept.  It was interesting that he could sleep at all in hindsight as he must have been so uncomfortable.  I think he took comfort when he heard my Mom’s rhythmic snoring, and he also knew I was sitting by him quietly with the lights out praying for him to be peaceful.

As soon as he roused at around 6:30 a.m., I gave him morphine and another anti-anxiety drug. He relaxed within 10 minutes, but had moved his face to resist the meds even though he could no longer hold his neck straight and didn’t have enough energy to talk at all. The hospice nurse told me that he probably thought I was attempting to feed him and he didn’t want anything.

I had such mixed emotions about giving dad morphine as I felt like I was killing him. Actually it brought him relief as he was able to breathe more regularly and it was calming. The very small amount that you give a person will not cause him to choke, and it will be absorbed by the gum tissue so you can give them morphine while they sleep. Hospice didn’t explain this to me until late in the game, else he would have been peaceful sooner than he was.

I learned that the human body’s ability to hold onto life is a strong instinct even while dying. Pharmaceuticals helped my dad relax so he could die peacefully. Another big help was the use of oxygen towards the end. We were lucky that my sister-in-law is a nurse and she knew about this. About 3 hours before he died his pulse was up to over 140+ beats per minute. Then it gradually slowed and his breathing became shallow and he died. Once his heart slowed, he lived only about 2 hours. We sat around his bedside at home as he died and that was very bonding.

We were very blessed to have my father in our lives. He was a giver his whole life even the day before he died. Early in his career he defended Japanese war criminals. He saved the US government millions of dollars in the 1950s and 1960s through procurement deals he negotiated with the Japanese, when millions of dollars was a lot of money. He continued his procurement work at the Pentagon until he retired in 1984. He was a religious man and helped the less fortunate in so many ways, helping orphanages in Yokohama, visiting prisoners of all sorts of description. What I really loved about him was his warmth and his uncanny ability to make each person he spoke to feel like they were so important.  He didn’t multi-task and gave a person his undivided attention. Many of us in this crazed world of social networking could take a lesson from my Dad.

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Are We Losing the Art of Conversation?

As I spend more time at my parents watching my Dad drift towards death, I have less energy for blogging, but plenty of time to ponder.

I recently read a blog by Sarah Perez about a study from Pew Internet and American Life Project which finds that social media is actually social. Those who surf the web and use mobile phones are more social and better connected to the world at large than those who don’t.

But what is ‘social’? I find that the connections I make and the blogs that I read through social networking are shallow in comparison to the connections and knowledge I gain and exchange in conversation. Social networks provide snippets and tidbits of information. As a society are we losing our ability and culture of conversation?

While this is anecdotal, enough friends tell me they don’t like to receive or leave voice mails since they find the phone to be a waste of time. Maybe I am too old, but I find the phone to be a great use of time, since I both speak and listen to words a lot faster than I can type/read them. Granted I can only engage is one conversation at a time, but there is a depth of conversation that I can routinely get to even on the telephone that just isn’t possible through social networks or any Internet communication.

As a researcher I appreciate that I can find and connect with people I could never have previously reached through social networks. However, I also recognize that those connections can be shallow, and that some people take advantage of what they can get from you through social connection. I had one person lead me to believe that he wanted to do business. Instead he took my proposed solution and implemented it himself. I found this out when I saw his firm listed as a user of a database I had recommended. There is even less loyalty among social connections, since many people don’t really know you, and don’t want to know you. They just want to connect with you to get to your connections. That isn’t what I call social: but, this does extend one’s network beyond one’s known business connections.

As a society we have been creeping away from conversations ever since television became common, and many of us remain glued to TV even as we eat dinner instead of conversing about our day. Now we have the Internet with its many distractions, one of which is email.  We have so many choices of ways to connect such as text messaging, and social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest . There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get several invitations to join various social networks or LinkedIn groups from people who have no idea who I am. I get so much spam through LinkedIn connections who are selling me something, asking me to endorse them or to join their LinkedIn Group. There is a lot of noise out there, and many distractions through an increasing number of social networks. I find that it’s a real balancing act to get my work done for all the noise.

But for now I’m having some deep conversations with family members. There is nothing like the impending loss of a loved one to draw out emotion and connection.

AttaainCI wins AIIP’s 10th Annual Technology Award

This time last week I was at Internet Librarian in Monterey, California. AttaainCI earned AIIP’s technology award. Founder and President, Daryl Scott was present to receive the award from AIIP’s President, Marcy Phelps. Every year, the AIIP Technology Award is presented to a company whose product, in the panel’s opinion, best assists independent information professionals in locating, analyzing, organizing and delivering information.AttaainCI software, was launched in early 2008, and provides real-time intelligence gathering, analysis, sharing and reporting alerts. One of my favorite uses is company tracking: your company, one you want to acquire or a competitor, for example. Track what’s being said about your company’s products or your key customers. It is reasonably priced at $149 per month for the first user and $69 for the second user for unlimited usage on a month-to-month basis. Discounted annual plans are negotiable with Attaain. Watch 10 instructional videos and learn in detail how AttaainCI will work for you.

AttaainCI continuously monitors, filters and integrates intelligence from a wide range of sources.

AttaainCI

The software had its start mostly tracking social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn among others.  Recently AttaainCI included Hoovers as a resource for information, greatly boosting its one-stop shopping appeal for research. You can use it both for a one-time research project, for example a company or person; and you can receive email alerts delivered to your mailbox according to a personalized schedule. It is cooperative in that you can share results with co-workers and view results more visually.

The typical output for a one-time company research query might be 3 or 4 pages of data that is easy to scroll through, as the abstracts appear neatly in 4 columns: Search Results, News & Announcement, Blog Mentions and Additional Intelligence. You can quickly connect to the best articles or reports to get up to speed on the topic you’re researching. You can also find out who is talking about that topic through your social networks. I find it is useful since I have a huge LinkedIn network, so I always find relevant people to follow-up with. Similarly I often can connect to good people on Twitter, who lead me to others once I determine the # for the topic in question, like #eldercare.  If you need more information than what is on those several pages, AttaainCI provides links to even more data right off the initial report.

AttaainCI is a good software package to get up to speed on just about any topic, and it’s great to use at the outset of a project whether it’s competitive intelligence or general research for sales, marketing, product management or strategic planning. AttaainCI is an effective tool for daily monitoring on topics to get the latest and greatest while you’re working on a project, which goes on for two weeks to a month, for example. Find out what people are saying about you, key executives, your products, and your company through AttaainCI.  AttaainCI will greatly reduce your communication time for intelligence deliverables.

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