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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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13 Life-Saving Safety Tips To Know BEFORE Your Summer Parties And Travels

These tips could make or break a vacation, depending on if you want to follow them or not.

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Summer is something we all look forward to, but we tend to forget about our safety when we are out and about. From going to the zoo to going out to the bar, everyone is at risk because unfortunately there are bad people in the world. It is important to keep things like this in mind.

Boys, girls, men, and women are taken every single day by sex traffickers all around the world. People are sexually abused, and last but not least people are exposed to bad things like dirty needles, broken glass, and other factors that can turn a great night into a horror story.

In order to shed light on these things and give the public a reminder, I compiled this list.

1. Don't set your drink down/watch your drink in big crowds

"Don't set your drink down" is one of the oldest rules in the book. Sadly enough, I've watched girls get things dropped into their drinks while they are dancing and holding it up in the air in big crowds. The man standing behind you at the concert may seem harmless, but you never know if he's planning on dropping a disorienting pill into your drink; pay attention at all times.

2. Don't let your friends leave the bar alone: rule of pairs

Whenever you go somewhere, especially at night, take someone with you. If anything happens, you'll always have someone else to run and get help. This goes for falling off your bike and skinning your knee to someone trying to grab you and pull you into their van. Two is always better than one.

3. Carry pepper spray, a knife, or, if you are comfortable enough, a gun

When you are walking alone at night just a few seconds worth of pepper spray can save your life. Personally, I carry a knife. I carry a Leatherman in a little cloth case on my belt. It's not too bulky and from afar it looks like it could possibly be a small handgun. The look of it alone could deter someone away from me in a bad situation.

If you aren't comfortable carrying these things, holding a set of keys in between your fingers is also another way to protect yourself if a bad situation did arise.

4. Be cautious about Uber, Lyft, and taxi services

When an Uber is coming to pick you up, ask them who they are there to pick up. Ask them their name as well. Before you get in the vehicle, open the door and make sure the child lock is off. Before getting into the car you should take a picture of the license plate and send it to a few of your friends. You can never be too safe.

5. Share your location with a group of close friends or family members 

I share my location with almost all of my friends. If something were to happen they would know exactly where I am. It would be an even better idea to share your "Find My iPhone" username and password with a friend or two because you can locate someone much easier that way. From my own personal experience, I know that the Find My iPhone app works much better than simply sharing your location. If you have an Android/Galaxy phone there are probably applications specific to them for location sharing as well.

6. Before going on a date with someone new... do the following:

If they are picking you up in their vehicle, try to snap a photo of their license plate. You should do this even if the person seems trustworthy because you never know what someone is truly thinking inside of their head. If you plan on going out to eat, tell your friends when and where. The more other people know, the safer you are. Check out their social media pages to make sure they are who they are saying they are. Do a little bit of research and utilize the tools that you have at your fingertips (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) Again, you can never be too safe.

7. Don't let your children leave your sight! 

Lately, I've read too many articles about children getting taken at fairs and other public events. One that I read said that the mother let her 5-or-6-year-old walk to the port-a-potty alone (right around the corner) and they never came back. It can happen so easily when it is the last thing on your mind.

If you have a younger child, send an older sibling with them. Make sure that you tell your children what to look for when it comes to someone watching them. If there is someone standing alone, wearing sunglasses, and pointing their phone at your children, it could be completely innocent and coincidental... but what if it's not? Watch out for the signs and warnings and educate your children.

8. Know where the nearest police station/ hospital is located

I actually never thought about this until I started working on the pipeline. Before each day of work we typically meet as a crew and locate the nearest hospital. We do this so that there is less confusion if an accident happens. The same thing goes for when you are on vacation to somewhere new. If you are walking and slice your foot an inch deep on a piece of glass, the last thing you want to worry about it finding a hospital to go to. When that is already predetermined it makes bad situations easier to handle.

The same thing goes for a police station. If you and a friend are out on the town and someone harasses you or does something disorderly, it would be beneficial to know where the police station is located. I know you're thinking "why wouldn't I just call 911?"

Well, think about this. What if your phone dies, your apple watch gets crushed trying to fight back in whatever situation you are in, or your phone just gets broken. You may have to run to the nearest police station or run to the nearest home to use someone else's phone.

I can't say this enough, it's better to be safe than sorry. It takes 10 seconds to look up the nearest hospital and police station before a night out. Utilize the tools you have and put your safety first.

9. Before going on vacation, read reviews 

I'll use beaches as an example. There are some really amazing, friendly, and clean beaches you can go to in the United States. With the internet in reach, use it and read about the place you are going to. Every so often a family will plan a getaway and arrive ready to enjoy the week, but if you pick a location where drug addiction is a known problem you are putting yourself and your children at risk. I understand that drug use is an issue everywhere, but it's worse in some places than it is in others. No one wants to be exposed to a dirty needle that someone left laying hidden in the beach sand. Using tools like Yelp and Google reviews can prevent little things like this from happening.

Tip: It's important to check the status of the water before you go somewhere. Sometimes, the water is infected with bacteria and other similar diseases that prevent you from swimming in the water.

10. Be aware of sex trafficking hot spots 

They are unfortunately all over the place. I currently live in Ohio, and I know that Columbus and Toledo are two big places where sex trafficking takes place. I have family that live in Michigan, and I know that Ann Arbor and Detroit are dangerous when it comes to that, too. Whenever I go to those places my guard is extra high and I pay attention to detail.

It's easy to let your guard down when you are out having fun, but no fun is worth risking your life over.

11. Trust your gut 

If you go out to a party with friends and feel uncomfortable, leave. Do not second guess your feelings or stay to please a friend.

12. Don't park next to vans/be aware if a van is parked next to you

It seems silly and a bit dramatic, but you never know. If there is a van parked next to your vehicle when you are leaving work, go back into work and have someone walk you out to your vehicle. In cities with high populations, this happens every day. You walk out to your car, the van doors open up, and you are never seen again.

13. Pay attention to detail 

Throughout this list, I've stated things that you should pay close attention to. Overall, you need to be paying attention to detail. When you are walking at night and there is someone walking 20 feet behind you with their hood up, that is a red flag. Call a friend or family member until you make it home safe. When you are walking around at the store and you continue to see the same person in your aisle, notify someone and express your worries. Watch people and their body language, and learn how to read it. Have an escape plan in situations that make you uncomfortable.

Although this list is probably full of things that have been pounded into your head over the years, it's never bad to refresh your mind. Keep yourself safe, keep your friends safe, and keep your family safe. There are hundreds of young aged boys and girls out there that may have never heard of things like this before. People too often let themselves think that a bad situation is a coincidence.

This list isn't meant to scare you, and life is made to live and have fun. If you just take the extra time to educate yourself, you should be able to live freely, happily, and safely. Share and be aware!

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