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Presentations, Readings, and Workshops

Many of my presentations are oriented toward family caregivers (F) (prototypically, adult children), elders (E), and professionals who support them (S) (e.g., social workers, clergy, therapists, case managers). Several are oriented as much or more toward professional caregivers and those who train or manage them (P). Most are scaleable between 30 and 60 minutes, and can be expanded into 2-3 hour workshops. Each program can be done independently or in any order, but some can be integrated over three or four evenings or as a weekend workshop.

Presentations can be tailored for audiences and delivered through venues such as hospices, hospitals, palliative care units, funeral homes, community education programs, libraries, churches, synagogues, senior centers, retirement communities, professional conferences (e.g., thanatology, hospice, elder law attorneys, social workers, funeral directors), undergraduate and graduate programs, medical schools, nursing schools, divinity schools, hospital administration programs, veterinary practices or hospitals, continuing education programs, and programs for professional, business, and women's groups.

During my talks, passages from my book may sometimes be interrogated as case study vignettes. They may be used to set up a discussion or develop some of the invisible, unlanguaged issues operating in end-of-life care. Readings use longer passages from which insights and wisdom may be drawn out, or the reading may simply be allowed to stir the experiences and memories of audience members. Readings seem to resonate powerfully with audiences, even those as demanding as groups of tough-minded writers.


The Paradox of Aging in Place

Advocating for Hospitalized Loved Ones and Ourselves

Staying Ahead of the Curve with Aging Parents and Elders

The Caregiver's Story: Unsung Hero(in)es of our Time

Partnering with Hospice for Best End-of-Life Outcomes

Catching the Tyranny of our Assumptions before we Enact Them

How do You Complete an Always Unfinished Life?

Dancing with Your Dying Parent

Dancing with Your Dying Animal Companion

Transforming Dying for Both of You

Spiritual Care of the Dying

A Relational Paradigm for Transforming End-of -Life Journeys


The Paradox of Aging in Place. An instructive discussion of a two-page story about Helene, an 84-year old widow, generates a lively exploration of strategic issues, choices, and shifts she needs to consider and act on. (E, F)

Drawing on 25 years of writing and teaching case studies for executives and MBA students, I facilitate discussion of a short case that I designed initially for a group in their 70s and 80s. My questions gather everyone into the conversation and elicit the critical issues embedded in the story. Participants "crack the case," gain insights, apply them to their own situations, and have fun doing it. Our perspective is oriented to aging in place and sustaining the highest possible quality of life. 60-90 minutes needed, 15-20 participants ideal, 5-30 is doable.


Advocating for Hospitalized Loved Ones and Ourselves. Why must we be healthcare advocates for our loved ones and ourselves? How can we improve the safety and quality of their/our care? (F, E, S)

Experts agree that our fragmented, perversely-incented healthcare system is broken while data reveal that hospitals are the most dangerous place we can be, and that the dangers escalate with the age of the patient. We'll identify high-priority areas for vigilance, proactivity, and interven­tion, explore actions we can take as well as how the strategies of family caregivers may need to shift as their elders become more vulnerable. We'll examine what "patient-centered care" looks like from the perspective of the patient, how it translates into behavior and practices of hospital staff, and provide a basic scorecard for holding them to account.


Staying Ahead of the Curve with Aging Parents and Elders. How can we be better prepared and use that preparation to prolong the independence and quality of life for both generations? (F, E, S)

Assessing where things are, where they may be headed, and when strategic shifts are needed is much harder in real time than in retrospect. This talk/workshop focuses on practical matters about which we are often unaware or fail to act until we are knee-deep. We'll explore a number of issues, consider emerging and potential decisions points in late-life journeys, and how we can be better prepared to deal with them. (F, E, S)


The Caregiver's Story: Unsung Hero(in)es of our Time. How do we get our hands around the caregiving situation that surrounds us and sometimes threatens to drown us so that we can navigate more consciously and effectively and give ourselves the recognition we deserve? (F, S, P)

Caregiving an elder whose body and/or mind is wearing out throws us into daunting, unfamiliar territory that is full of unknowns and learning curves and has no rewind button. This talk/workshop gives us our bearings in this territory before or while we are going through it, and validates those who have completed a journey by giving, shape, structure, and dignity to this culturally invisible and unvalued role. It maps caregiving's inherent structure that underlies and informs each unique caregiving/dying story, and reveals coherence in the wildly disparate details and searing tensions of providing late-life care.



Partnering with Hospice for Best End-of-Life Outcomes. By avoiding hospice and the shift to a palliative care paradigm, many dying people struggle with (unnecessary) symptoms and pain, and they and their families sabotage the (more) meaningful journey they might have shared. (E, F)

Although 40% of the 2.5 million Americans who die each year have some contact with hospice, many people have misconceptions about hospice and little idea of what it means to work with them before the fact. As a result, they don't contact them at all or do so too late to get the full benefit of such a partnership. This talk/workshop previews what an enormous difference this shift to hospice management can make, what it's like working with their staff on a daily basis, and how to make working relationships among the family, hospice staff—and often private caregivers as well—the most effective they can be.


Catching the Tyranny of our Assumptions before we Enact Them. How can we become aware of assumptions whose verbal or nonverbal enactment can upset or harm the fragile, disoriented, or dying person? (P, F, S)

"Patient-centered care" takes on new dimensions when someone is reaching the end of their life.  Rarely are clinicians, let alone family members, trained in how to interact verbally or nonverb­ally with the dying. By giving form and language to interactions that often pass unnoticed, we make conscious and discussable things that harm or that help.


How do You Complete an Always Unfinished Life? Letting go of an unfinished life is excruciating, and drives the emotional and spiritual distress often observed in the dying. What do we mean by "dying well," and what kinds of "unfinished business" can impede it? What can still be fixed, healed, or completed? (E, F, P, S)

The urgent demands of caregiving, the turmoil generated by families in conflict or who refuse to let go, and unwanted, counter-productive biomedical interventions can easily crowd out what is truly important for the person who is dying: completing their most pressing "unfinished business." Part of the job of family caregivers is to understand what that unfinished business is in this particular case. We are better prepared to do this if we have spent some time reflecting on those needs, ways to think about what it means to "die well," and whether that is the same as what most people mean by a "good death.


Dancing with Your Dying Parent. We are not in control of our parent's dying, but neither are we powerless. Despite our broken healthcare system, we can empower ourselves by reframing dying as an intimate dance between dying and caregiving partners. (F, E, S, P)

The "Dance of Death" helps us focus on what truly matters, guides our behavior to create space for deeper connection, surprising moments, and mutual growth and healing, and leaves us with fewer regrets in the endless After. This talk/workshop teaches questions we need to keep asking, dance steps for answering them, and how to dance as well as possible given the constraints and possibilities in our situation. We explore the central question for both the dying person and their primary family caregiver: How do I let go of my life?


Dancing with Your Dying Animal Companion. The dance steps and guiding principles for "dancing" with our four-legged friends at the end of their lives are no different than for our two-legged friends and family. In fact, my core ideas about the Dance of Death originated in an intuitive dance with a very special cat.

One of the most painful (and often avoided) realizations we have to face is when prolonging life crosses over into prolonging death—and perhaps suffering—of our beloved animal companions. This talk/workshop explores how we can be more deeply attuned to whether we are giving them the supports they need to stay with us longer or forcing them beyond where their bodies and spirits need to be. How do we stay on their curve?


Transforming Dying for Both of You. Dying can be the most powerful and transformative experience in life. Yet most of us—the dying and their caregivers—get cheated, or cheat themselves.  How do we transform dying from a biomedical event to an emotional-relational-spiritual journey that can unlock its mutually transformative potential?   (E, F, S, P)

"Change" occurs on a continuous path over time, but "transformation" occurs in a moment and seems to come from "nowhere"—or does it? How do we lay the groundwork and create a space within which transformative moments arise, forever altering both of you and your relationship?


Spiritual Care of the Dying. How can we demystify and become comfortable with the inherently elusive but profound domain of spirituality and what it means to provide "spiritual care" for those reaching the end of their life? Can we find areas of convergence when we are coming from divergent points of view? What markers and guiding principles can help us navigate?

Nurses and doctors trained to "cure" are uncertain about what it means to provide "spiritual care" for the dying and who is responsible for providing it while pastors trained in rituals often have limited experience with the dying. Family members are frequently in very different places about "spirituality" and may abdicate "spiritual care" to professionals. Yet each of us is capable of co-creating and holding the healing space that facilitates the dying person's finding their way to greater wholeness, meaning, and completion.



A Relational Paradigm for Transforming End-of -Life Journeys. Dying is the ultimate solo event, but dying well is the ultimate relational process. What does "relational" mean, how is it different from how we've been taught to think, and why is it so potent? (P, F, E, S)

No one can die well alone. Traditional communities have always understood this in their bones. They knew how to attend the dying and go the distance with them before and after death while concurrently reweaving the torn fabric of community. In our fractured society, we have to relearn consciously how to engage with the sacred journey to The Mystery and co-create the sacred space for the journey to unfold. In this talk/workshop, we step back and make explicit the relational paradigm that underlies, guides, and enables our shared journey.





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