What to Do When a Loved One Dies: A Practical and Compassionate Guide to Dealing with Death on Life's Terms

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  • JANUARY 2007, VOL 85, NO 1 AORN JOURNAL 203 AORN, Inc, 2007

    R E V I E W S

    What to Do When aLoved One Dies: A Practical and

    Compassionate Guideto Dealing with Death

    on Lifes Termssecond edEva Shaw

    2005, 365 pages$24.95 softcover

    In general, Americans have little per-sonal contact with death or the dyingprocess. Ones first experience maycome with the death of an elderly parentor relative, and it can be a confusing,disorienting experience. Dealing withhospitals, hospices, mortuaries, and fu-nerals is new territory for most of us. Inan attempt to demystify the process andhelp those dealing with loss, the authorof this book has written a very helpful,comprehensive, practical, and easy-to-read guide. The author, a specialist ingrief management and wellness, coversthe topic thoroughly, and despite mylong nursing career and experience withdeath and dying, she managed to pro-vide me with information that was new.

    The author covers the basics in chap-ters one and twowhat to do immedi-ately after a death, how the location of adeath can affect what happens, when anautopsy is performed or required, howthe mortuary process works, and whatfuneral costs and arrangements to ex-pect. Depending on the audience, thesection on autopsies and embalmingmay be a bit too specific for comfort.Even as a perioperative nurse, I foundmyself a little put off by the descriptionof the embalming process, especiallywhen thinking about it in regards to a

    loved one. Knowledge about thisprocess, however, may be helpful forsome when making mortuary decisions.Knowing what typically happens andwhat the law requires can lessen thestress for survivors.

    Chapters three through five coverthe grieving process and how it differsfor individuals and situations. For ex-ample, the grieving process for a childmay be quite different than that for aparent or sibling, and one may grievedifferently if the loved ones death wasa result of trauma or suicide as op-posed to illness or natural causes. Theauthor discusses each of thesedifferences and pro-vides helpful sugges-tions and referrals forreaders.

    Chapters six andseven deal with death asa media event (eg, in thecase of violent crime ordisaster) and deaths thatmay occur away from thedeceased persons home. Inthis age of war and terrorism, the sec-tions on military deaths and funerals aswell as the sections on disasters anddeath abroad are especially helpful.

    In later chapters, the author coversthe minutia of death (eg, belongings,wills, bills, insurance, estates, probate)and provides practical information andsources of help for family members.She also discusses the death of a petwith sensitivity and kindness and of-fers sources and information to dealwith all the issues that arise.

    My initial thoughts on being asked toreview this book were that it wouldprobably be of little interest to a nursingaudience familiar with death and dying.On the contrary, it offers much practicalinformation that had never really oc-curred to me before and that would be

    Advice for the grieving; reducingmedical errors through partnership


    JANUARY 2007, VOL 85, NO 1 Reviews

    helpful to anyone anticipatingor experiencing the loss of aloved one. For nurses, an addi-tional bonus is that the bookgives us information to pass onto the families in our care wholose a loved one, and we couldcertainly refer them to thisbook with confidence.

    The only aspect of thisbook that nearly resulted inmy not reading it was thepreface, written by Frank B.Stewart, Jr. Reading it was likehaving to endure a long-winded sermon that easesyou to sleep. I would encour-age those to whom this bookis recommended to skip thepreface completely.

    This book is available fromWriteriffic, PO Box 524, Carls-bad, CA 92018.




    Partnering WithPatients to

    Reduce MedicalErrors

    Patrice L. Spath, ed2004, 198 pages

    $45 AORN members specialprice/$75 nonmembers


    In an era of rapid employeeturnover, fast-paced medicalsystems, increased employeeovertime, and a push to im-prove the bottom line in healthcare, the concern for patientsafety is becoming ever more

    paramount. In this book, theauthor provides a timely andconcise case for patient safety.This book is a quintessentialread for those working in thehealth care environment of thetwenty-first century.

    The author creates a com-prehensive view ofpatient safety by pro-viding perspectivesfrom numerous pro-fessionals (eg, healthinformation man-agers, physicians,RNs, attorneys).She walks readersthrough the issueof patient safetyas viewed by pa-tients as well asnurses, physicians, and othercaregivers. Opportunities forimproving patient safety areaddressed from all view-points, and organizationalcommitment to patient safetyis identified as the key in mak-ing it effective. Practical rec-ommendations from the au-thor include making efforts todecrease paternalism, embracethe patients culture, andspeak the patients language.

    One chapter is devoted toliability, and it is helpful inaddressing issues such as pre-and postevent communica-tion. Sample letters are in-cluded as tools for readers,and an extensive list of re-sources regarding health caresafety is provided as well.

    The author ends this inter-esting book by focusing onthe patients involvement inpatient safety. The pros andcons of patients involvementin their safety are addressed in

    an objective and meaningfulfashion. Practical implicationsof patient safety include opencommunication between staffmembers and patients andtheir family members, alongwith patient involvement insafety committees. The ulti-mate goal is enhanced patient

    safety with minimalvariances.

    Practical strategiesare provided, as wellas benchmark exam-ples for measuringsuccess. Practicalstrategies for patientsinclude providing feed-back about their experi-ence, filling out depart-mental surveys, andcommunicating safety

    concerns and variances to thehealth care facility.

    The bottom line is thateveryone bears the responsi-bility for patient safety, in-cluding patients. Empoweringpatients to take charge andtake a leadership role in theircare will result in a saferhealth care environment.Todays health care profes-sionals will find this book anecessary companion.

    This book is availablefrom Health Forum, One NFranklin St, 28th Floor,Chicago, IL 60606. To pur-chase this book at the specialprice of $45, AORN mem-bers must use order numberCNO-181202 when orderingthe book.




    Advice for the grieving; reducing medical errors through partnership