Nearly 150 people took advantage of a free workshop at Central Peninsula Hospital (CPH) recently when award winning hospice nurse, author, and nationally prominent speaker Barbra Karnes RN presented a series of workshops on the "Dynamics of Dying." According to Meg Zerbinos, spiritual care coordinator at CPH and Heritage Place, people came from Talkeetna, Homer, Ninilchik, and Seward as well as the Central Peninsula to attend the workshop. "Our purpose is to provide community education on end of life and when you talk about the dynamics of dying it implies that there is a process and what most people don't know is that there are really just two ways to die, gradual or fast. Fast is the accidental sudden death, but the other way to die gradually is either through old age or disease and there is a process to gradual death, it doesn't just happen where you are alive one day and dead the next, it's a process of dying gradually and that process begins two to three to four months before death actually comes and understanding that process is what we address," said Karnes in an interview with the Dispatch.
Karnes says each death is unique, individual, and can be a beautiful experience if you can get beyond the fear that most people bring to the bedside, "We have all these stereotypes of what it's going to be like when someone dies, and it's not like it looks in the movies, but that's what we think. When we are at the bedside of someone who is dying it's because we are emotionally involved and view the experience through our emotions and belief systems and culture and through our fears and we don't really see what is happening. So my purpose is to help guide that family into seeing that this is a beautiful and sacred moment. It will never be okay for us to have someone close to us that we know and love die, but what I'm saying is that it doesn't have to be a bad experience, but a normal, natural experience that touches us all and is a part of life and not the enemy," said Karnes.
According to Zerbinos the Karnes presentations were well received, "The comments on the evaluations show how much she was appreciated. One of the nurses said it was the best presentation as a nurse she has ever attended. Many expressed gratitude for the information they received. Several people spoke with me concerning parents they were taking care of and how valuable Barbara's information was. One nurse with 30+ years of experience said she learned a lot even after all her years of nursing. She could identify with what Barbara said and commented that her information was 'right on'. The information was practical, informative and based on years of experience," she said. Those attending included physicians, nurses, certified nursing assistance, dietary and housekeeping staff, assisted living staff, caregivers in the community and many interested community members. The event was sponsored by Spiritual Care at CPH/HP, Central Peninsula Health Foundation, Hospice of the Central Peninsula, and CPH Medical Staff.
Barbara Karnes books and booklets on end of life are available by going to www.bkbooks.com. This is the third time she has been to the Peninsula and Zerbinos says they would love to have her back again for future workshops.