Story last updated at 3/13/2009 - 3:00 pm
JUNEAU - As Board President of the Foundation for End of Life, Virginia Palmer spends a lot of time talking to people about death.
"It's an amazing subject," she said. "It touches everybody. Once you ask about it, people want to talk."
Palmer recently wrote a book for the foundation entitled "When you're not here... A guide for helping those you love." The publishing was supported by a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation.
The book is a primer on end of life care and is designed to be accessible and helpful for people at all stages of their lives, Palmer said. It covers exactly what must be done after a death in the family, with a prioritized checklist. It discusses burial, cremation and obituaries, and clarifies legal and medical terms, such as the difference between a will, a living will and a medical power of attorney.
"It's a good book to bridge the gap between you and your parents, for example," Palmer said. "This is a very general book. It fits everybody, including kids. If we can get it out there, it will really help."
The book is dedicated to Palmer's late husband, Bob, who she said was the inspiration for the book. He passed away from Alzheimer's Disease in 2004, but since he knew early on that something was wrong, he was able to help his wife plan well for his death.
As an example, Palmer said she and her husband would laugh about how there was a three-month period after someone dies in which their loved ones can collect their frequent flier miles. But having this information helped after Bob's death, when Palmer was able to fly family members up for free.
"I want people to recognize that they're going to die (someday) and be creative with it," Palmer said. "The more light-hearted you can make it, the better."
Palmer said the book is really a reflection of the aims of the entire Foundation for End of Life Care. The foundation, which is run by an all-volunteer board, supports hospice care, bereavement services and community education about end-of-life issues.
There are other questions and issues she would like the foundation to be able to address, such as how hospice can take care of homeless people. She called hospice a "lifesaver" for her and her husband and she hopes it can someday be able to serve more people.
"If we can generate enough money from this book, maybe we can start addressing these (kinds of issues), so all people can die with dignity," Palmer said.
Palmer intended the book to be small and simple - the finished publication is only 40 pages long. She said it is designed as something people can return to as a reference when needed. The personal records in the back of the book can be gradually filled out and updated as needed.
"Buy the book, fill out the forms, put it (somewhere safe) and you're good to go - no pun intended," she said.
It's never to early to begin thinking about your wishes for the end of life, Palmer added.
"Death isn't something we just put on the shelf and wait (for)," she said. "We've had so many accidents just in Juneau this year. Death is not an old person's disease."
Virginia Palmer will present her book "When you're not here... A guide for helping those you love" on Saturday, March 15 at 1 p.m. at Hearthside Books in the Nugget Mall. For details on the event, call 789-2750.
For more information about the Foundation for End of Life Care, contact Virginia Palmer at 789-5586 or visit www.foundationforendoflifecare.org.