End of life dreams studied at Hospice Buffalo

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CHEEKTOWAGA NY (WIVB) Hospice Buffalo is gaining worldwide attention for years of study involving the vivid dreams that dying patients report having in their final days of life.

“Everybody I knew that was dead was there,” said the late Jeanne Faber, a former patient of Hospice Buffalo who is one of hundreds of patients who Hospice Buffalo interviewed on video shortly before her death about her very vivid  end of life dreams.

She says the dreams became more frequent the sicker she became. “I have seen my mother, recently more. “I can’t say that my mother and I got along all those years, but we made up for it in the end,” said Faber.

“As soon as I started here, this seemed to be common knowledge among people who work with dying patients and who were closer to the bedside,” said Dr, Christopher Kerr, CEO of Hospice Buffalo. “I ended up studying it because as I came to appreciate that there was this kind of subjective or non-physical element to dying, that it was important an inherently therapeutic.”

The late Paul Schaefer reported dreaming about his late wife several times after she passed years ago. “She always kind of let me know that she’s fine. I get that feeling after a dream like that,” said Schaefer, who notes that the last one he had shortly before his death was different. “She wanted me to pack up some things for her, so I had this crazy dream I’m packing goods and I’m setting them for some reason up high, and everything went fine until I fell out of bed ha ha, and I really clunked.”

Paul died a few weeks after that interview with Hospice Buffalo researchers

In the final days of life, dreams seem to bring comfort and tie up loose ends, according to Dr. Kerr. “The thing you have to realize is the time for therapy and analysis is over. They’re nearing the end of their lives and people aren’t emerging from these experiences with questions; ‘what happened to me?’ They’re coming out of this with answers and meaning.”

The late Maggie Scheelar is convinced she saw her deceased sister. “So, I said Beth, you gotta stay with me. I’m alone, stay. And she says, I can’t, not now. Then she says ‘Soon we’ll be back, we’ll be together.”

Dr. Kerr does not believe it has anything to do with pain killing drugs or hallucinations. “We ruled out people who had confusional states. So these people are cognitively in tact.”

Hospice Buffalo researchers haven’t been focused on WHY these end of life dreams happen, but more on the fact that they DO happen with great frequency, and the hope that the rest of the medical world should not be so quick to dismiss end-of-life dreams.

“This was a very significant thing, but when I woke up, I was happy. It left me with a good feeling,” said Faber, who didn’t just dream about her pre-deceased relatives, but also the dog she missed. “Because she was a blind dog and I took care of her for so many years. I just lost her a year ago. All I could see her was running the fields…and not being blind anymore.”

“Personally, I just think it’s  better story than the one we might think we’re seeing< said Dr. Kerr. “Those things that we’ve truly loved and cherished are never really gone.”

Not only do these end of life dreams seem to help those dying, but also the loved ones they leave behind.

“In my opinion it’s real. To them, it’s real,” said Tammy, the mother of a Hospice Buffalo patient who experienced a comforting end of life dream.

Sue Olesky noticed how dreams brought her mother comfort before death. “She didn’t even talk about them as dreams. To her, they were something that happened last night,” said Olesky.

Norb misses his late wife, a former Hospice Buffalo patient. “But knowing how she died, what mood she was in when she died has put me at great ease over it, really.”

A documentary about this research recently won an award at the Barcelona Film Festival. A book about this research, titled, “Death is but a Dream” comes out in February, and ten countries have bought copies in advance. Netflix is also doing a full episode about this research next fall.

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