How does it change to see people die?

"People die as they lived"

Manuela Borzakoglu set up the group of voluntary dying companions at the Evangelical Care for the Elderly

Death and dying are still taboo subjects. It is all the more important to talk about it, believe Roswitha Grieshaber and Manuela Borzakoglu. They are dying companions in old people's and nursing homes. They also know: everyone dies differently.

St. Georgen. "Mama," many call out. And: "I'm going home now." Some then reach up towards the ceiling. Some also whisper: "There is someone standing there". Or say the names of the deceased quietly to themselves. Few fight, are afraid and fight back until the end. But most people leave this world peacefully.

"Every death is different, it is never the same," explains Roswitha Grieshaber. Grieshaber, who everyone here just calls Rosi, has been a geriatric nurse at Evangelische Altenhilfe St. Georgen since 2003 and completed additional training as a dying assistant in 2011. She is now retired, but continues to volunteer to support people on their last journey. "Some walk quickly, others get drawn. Many just lie there, close their eyes and say nothing more." Most of them die in spring and autumn.

The clientele in the Elisabethhaus nursing home has changed in recent years, says Manuela Borzakoglu, who works there as a hospice and palliative coordinator. People are getting older and living longer in their own homes. "Many who come to us are already dying." Then it is about providing people with palliative care, i.e. controlling the symptoms and using medication to enable pain-free death. "People are not afraid of death, but of dying and pain," believes Borzakoglu. In addition to palliative care - "more for the soul" - terminal care is also important. "Some people want to talk, but many are also happy when someone is simply there. We take something with us to knit or read so that they don't feel like we're staring at them."

When people want to talk, the focus is often on the family: "They worry whether the children have become something, whether everyone is well looked after. Many are sad that they have to leave their house behind." Borzakoglu is certain: "If you have no one left, it is easier."

Death heralds itself. The body changes. Features for this are a pointed face when the nose looks longer and protrudes. A white triangle forms around the mouth, between the nose and chin. A white-blue marbling can be seen on the skin of the dying person. Life withdraws to the center of the body. Breathing becomes weaker and stops more often.

A fascinating, recurring phenomenon is that people with relatives almost always die when they have left the room for a short time and they are alone. "The dying person notices that people are present. There is unrest in the room. They choose when they want to die," says Borzakoglu. It is difficult for relatives not to have been there. "But then we say: You wanted it that way. Maybe because, for example, mom doesn't want to leave her children alone."

Borzakoglu built up the group of voluntary dying attendants at the Evangelical Aid for the Elderly. They are trained in-house. The group meets once a week, also for "personal hygiene", to reflect on the accompaniments and encounters and to exchange ideas. "We see what people and their relatives need and can be reached day and night."

The breaks between missions are important. "Because if you take care of someone for years, it hurts a little when they leave," explains Grieshaber. It is then important to switch off, you shouldn't take this work home with you. Sometimes she goes to the funeral to put an end to it.

A recurring ritual in Elisabethaus is that relatives, residents and nursing staff say goodbye in the deceased's room. "We then stand in a circle around the bed, read something or pray and sing. We prepare for the› trip ‹and say goodbye," says Borzakoglu. To switch off, she goes into the forest with her dog: "My source of strength, my little island in life, something that is good for the soul."

"People die as they lived," says Borzakoglu. "The poor peasant woman who was humble and there for others dies quietly and quietly." Her image of the end of life has completely changed through her work, she has lost the fear of death. She has never experienced a "death throes". "I know we're finite. It's natural: people are born and die." Death is still a taboo subject. "You have to talk about it," appeals Grieshaber. "It can always happen."

Although the topic was uncomfortable for her sons, Borzakoglu had asked her family to make an advance directive, for example, and thus deal with the finiteness of life. "I said: Yes, we'll talk about it!"

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