Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size
A
A
A

Talk About Death

Finding the right words.

WebMD Feature

July 3, 2000 -- The conversation about death loomed, the words waiting to be spoken. Roberta, a lifelong spiritual seeker, an opera singer, and an articulate, emotionally aware woman, was dying of cancer at the age of 76. Would she like to speak with the hospice chaplain? She said yes. The chaplain, Heather Certik, arrived, but Roberta turned away.

"I had the feeling that Heather's coming over made Mother realize that maybe her time was winding down," says Michael Messer, Roberta's son, who moved to San Francisco to care for his mother before she died last fall. "I don't think she wanted to face that. She wasn't ready to go."

Recommended Related to Healthy Seniors

Help a Loved One Eat Right

It may take a little work to figure out what's keeping your loved one from eating, but once you do, you can help. Two experts -- Mary Fennell Lyles, MD, and geriatrics dietitian Dixie Yow, RD, offer these tips to make sure your loved one is getting the nutrition they need.

Read the Help a Loved One Eat Right article > >

The conversation never happened, with anyone. "I wanted to talk to her about death, but there was always this feeling of hope that she was going to make it," says Messer.

Talking about death at the end of life is a difficult, awkward proposition for both the dying person and for family members. Each may have different reasons for wanting to stay silent or to talk. Some family members say nothing, out of fear of saying the wrong thing. Or the dying person says nothing because of a superstitious belief that to acknowledge death is to hasten it. And family members often want to shield their grief from the dying person, while the dying person similarly wants to protect family members.

No wonder one out of four Americans over the age of 45 surveyed in a 1999 telephone poll conducted by the National Hospice Foundation say they would not bring up issues related to their parent's death -- even if the parent had a terminal illness and less than six months to live. But those who work in the field of death and dying emphasize that acknowledging the end of life and saying goodbye, in whatever form, is an emotional and even a physical balm, reducing stress and depression.

Breaking the Ice

"Communication is what human beings do, even if it's just holding someone's hand," says Steven J. Baumrucker, MD, associate editor in chief of the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care. By all means, Baumrucker urges, speak up, ask what kind of care a dying person would like, say what you've always wanted to say. Often, there is a need to address spiritual matters, he says, recalling a man with liver cancer who was in a frenzy of distress until he was baptized three days before he died. Family disagreements also can be pressing. "After family members are dead is not a good time to try to reconcile with them," he says.

Today on WebMD

blueberries
Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
 
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
 
fast healthy snack ideas
Article
how healthy is your mouth
Tool
 
dog on couch
Tool
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 
champagne toast
Slideshow
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Quiz
 
Man feeding woman
Slideshow
two senior women laughing
Article