Greeting the end of life with openness, grace and dignity

In January, we jumped at the chance to engage in an intimate Q&A with Dr. BJ Miller, founder of Zen Hospice, San Francisco. This event preceded a talk with Pico Ayer at UCSB’s Campbell Hall which was recorded and can be found here. In the wake of the Thomas fire, subsequent mudslides and the incredible losses in our community, having a frank, open conversation about death, dying, grief and coping couldn’t have been harder nor more necessary. We are truly inspired to take the conversation further and to think about how we can live the greatest quality of life, at all stages of living.


At Helping Hands, part of our mission is to come to the end-of-life process with grace and dignity. We are committed to working in a seamless partnership with hospice when they are involved and seeing that our clients live their final days as fully as possible. One key to this may be having a “5 wishes” document.


This simple document offers the opportunity to state what would make you most comfortable or happy ~ what feeds the soul. Going beyond the clinical POLST, having a designated a health care agent or power of attorney is sometimes the only way doctors, caregivers and loved ones know a person’s directives at the end of life. The 5 wishes give caregivers a roadmap to follow for their client’s unique preferences for living at the end of life. A sample can be found here.


As we move forward, we are committed to be a part of a larger discussion about death and dying; we believe in overcoming the taboo of the subject to facilitate these conversations that are so necessary in order to live and die well. There are a number of workshops and events in Santa Barbara that can help families to begin talking about and preparing for the end of life. The Alliance for Living and Dying Well offers a number of workshops each month for advance care planning (calendar here), and Sansum Clinic also offers a monthly workshop (next session on Feb. 12 – more info). “Death cafes” are another resource; these meetings are open to all and are spaces where people can talk about death in an informal setting. The next Santa Barbara Death Café will be held on Feb. 21 (more info). Additionally, Hospice of Santa Barbara offers free, confidential grief counseling (more info). We anticipate being at as many of these events in our community as possible and encourage you to join the conversation! You can also contact us directly with any questions, comments, or ideas.

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