Thursday, August 1, 2013

On Tweeting the End of Life interviews Scott Simon, of NPR's "Saturday Weekend Edition," after the death of his mother on July 29 at the age of 85. Simon spent the two weeks leading to her death sending tweets to his 1.2 million followers on the social media site, Twitter, and continued to do so in her final hours. Reporter Susan Donaldson James asked HFA about the role of social media in the grieving process:
Kenneth Doka, a senior consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America and author of "Beyond Kubler-Ross: New Perspectives on Death, Dying and Grief," calls the support system that Twitter created around Simon "an incredible phenomenon."

But he said he was "curious" why Simon's mother was in so much pain, given scientific and medical advances in hospice care. "I wondered if we did all we could for this woman in pain," said Doka, who's also a professor of gerontology at the Graduate School of The College of New Rochelle in New York.

Simon said his mother had received morphine for her pain in the end. "Those people were ICU heroes," he said. "I am grateful to them and my family owes then a permanent debt."

"One of the most profound comments I read was how he held his mother's hand so tightly," Doka said of Simon. "Don't wait until the end to say, 'I love you.' That is an awesome life lesson."

Although Twitter is a modern mode of communication, societies over the centuries have had their own tools, Doka said.

"When you look at the pyramids, we have always reached out to death and dying and this is our most current technology, our monument," he said.

Hospice Foundation of America exists to help families and professionals through the process of terminal illness, death, and grief. If you have recently experienced the end of a caring relationship, see this video for more information on understanding grief. If you are looking for help finding a support group, see this page on our website.