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Communication at the End of Life


Edited By Jon F. Nussbaum, Howard Giles and Amber Worthington

Communication is at the heart of any complete understanding of the end of life. While it is true that individuals physically die as a single entity, the process of ending an individual life is located within a complex system of relationships and roles connected and constructed through communicative processes. In this volume, top scholars from numerous disciplines showcase the latest empirical investigations and theoretical advances that focus on communication at the end of life. This multi-contextual approach serves to integrate current findings, expand our theoretical understanding of the end of life, prioritize the significance of competent communication for scholars and practitioners, and provide a solid foundation upon which to build pragmatic interventions to assist individuals at the end of life as well as those who care for and grieve for those who are dying. This book is suitable for undergraduate and graduate courses in Death and Dying, Communication and Aging, Health Communication, Life Span Development, Life Span Communication, Long term care, Palliative care and Social Work.
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Introduction: Communicating At, For, and About the End of Life






Baby boomers, the largest segment of the U.S. population, are coming to the age at which they feel their own mortality and must cope with their parents’ deaths and, increasingly, with their peers’ deaths. Approximately 25% of our middle-aged generation (currently the largest group in our society) lives with their parents; 13 million are caregivers for ailing parents (“Baby Boomer News & Information,” 2005). In addition, these same boomers have more trouble discussing end-of-life issues (their own as well as that of their family members and friends) with their parents than do their parents who are now in their 70s or beyond (Greenwald & Associates, 2005). People at times may desire to learn more about what to expect; how to talk with professional health care workers about end-of-life choices, expectations, and fears; how to be a more effective partner on this journey with a loved one; and how to better prepare themselves for dealing with their own stress and grief as they care for and deal with the immediate loss of a loved one and the aftermath (see Chapter 11 of this volume; all further references to chapters are to those in this volume).

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that removes death from our view, apart from its ubiquity in the movies and in videogames (see Chapter 5). A century ago, witnessing death was commonplace because people died at home and...

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