Chapter Three: Benchmarking the End of Life in Long-Term Care
Benchmarking THE End OF Life IN Long-Term Care
JABER F. GUBRIUM
Oddly enough, the first sentence of Stephen King’s (1989) thriller The Dark Half is especially pertinent to the subject matter of this chapter. Not because the end of life is thrilling, but because what King says about life at the beginning of the book is to the point. Making a distinction, King writes: “People’s lives—their real lives, as opposed to their simple physical existences—begin at different times” (p. 3). If asked, King would probably agree that, likewise, the end of life concludes at different times. This would suggest that an individual can have many lives, each or all of which can begin and end at different times. This chapter addresses the communicative contours of the distinction in long-term care, part of a larger concern about the narrative organization of aging and dying (see Kenyon, Bohlmeijer, & Randall, 2011).
The distinction between life and living is commonplace in the corpus of empirical material drawn upon for this chapter. It was often mentioned, for example, in interviews with Helen, an 86-year-old nursing home resident who lamented, “I’ll go on living, but my life is over.”1 As Helen spoke about life, I came to know what many of us informally recognize, that the life is as experientially real—more real perhaps if we are to believe King—than concrete bearings, such as the bodies that undergird it. The life...
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