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I shepherded my mother through nine years of long term care and was so appalled that I wrote a book after her death: Dying for Attention: A Graphic Memoir of Nursing Home Care by Conundrum Press. I made it humorous because the topic is so sad, bordering on desperate.

The book was well-received from critics but most importantly from people going through the same experience:

Shortly after my book launched, I saw this ten-minute TedTalk by Calgary cartoonist Sam Hester:

Inspired by this new way to improve communications (and therefore compassion) between family members and the health care providers in nursing homes, I got in touch with Sam and she gave me permission to run with this idea. So, I did. I drew this template and put it on my website for people to download. Below are three examples - the blank drawing, one filled out by a staff member, and another by a family member.

I took the idea to the Canadian Frailty Network Research Day in Fredericton, New Brunswick on May 11 and received encouraging responses. Most people who filled in my short survey were health care providers who loved the idea as did others who simply dropped by to chat. It’s far from a scientific response but certainly encouraging enough for me to pursue next steps.

Next, I spoke with Dr. Sarah Fraser, Co-director of the Medical Humanities program at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. She liked the idea too and gave me leads to pursue professional research support from the Geriatric Medicine department at Dal. And I’ve been in touch with a few nursing homes in Halifax to see if they’re interested in testing the concept.

What do you think of the idea? Any suggestion? Please contact me at It’s all part of Visualizing End of Life Issues!

Here’s a sketch I did at the conference for your viewing pleasure.

When was the last time you saw an opening for a BIG conversation of real significance to you? Were you able to leap into the space and begin the work and play of listening, sharing, wondering, questioning, and more? I was just that lucky during the 2022 Appreciative Inquiry Jam.

As the graphic recorder for the event, my plate was pretty full. Happily, the Jam’s schedule included a time for Open Space experiences. I grabbed the chance to offer up this subject for conversation, “Bringing AI to the Death Positive Movement.” I was curious to discover if any of my colleagues at the AIJam would join me in exploring this idea. To my surprise and delight, five of us from around the world gathered for a rich and deep session.

We arrived with different ideas, hopes, and questions for the session. My desire in suggesting the topic was to discover if the 5D design process of AI might be applied to bringing conversations about death, and therefore life, more readily into the public domain. As you see in the graphic recording of our conversation, we approached the subjects of end-of-life care, death, dying, and living from a great variety of perspectives.

Our time together was heart-opening. We have stayed connected and we are meeting to continue the conversation.

What are your experiences in bringing opening up conversations about end-of-life planning, death, dying, and living? I'd love to hear about them.

If you’re interested in reading the article I wrote for AI Practioner, it's here. I hope that you will share your impressions with me!

Download PDF • 1.31MB

Each meeting, we VEOLI members discuss a chapter from a pertinent book. Below is a graphic capture of Chapter 4 from "Awake at the Bedside". The chapter is by Elisabeth Kubler Ross entitled "Unfinished Business and How You Know What You Know". She emphasizes three things in the chapter: trusting your own intuition; helping a dying person address unfinished business; and the importance of dealing with your own unfinished business. During our discussion VEOLI members were particularly interested in how Kubler Ross encourages caregivers to offer dying people a piece of paper and crayons to draw their illness and/or their unfinished business. She shows how that drawing will help guide you in support and treatment. - Susan MacLeod

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