Intangible Gifts at the End of Life
This coda explores the role of home care workers in helping patients and their kin establish rituals and meaning at the end of life. Kin often find themselves having difficulty creating the proper ritual space or sense of union and communion with the dead and with each other. They do not have a cultural script of what to do, which leads to greater grief. This lack of ritual around home deaths speaks to the cultural desire to avoid death as long as possible, the expertise of medical authorities in structuring the dying process in hospitals, and the fact that aging in general is somewhat unstructured, with relatively few rituals in comparison to the transitions of childhood and youth. Given the lack of structure in home deaths, kin are amenable to guidance about new kinds of social actions from others, including from home care workers, who become experts in dying. Such moments draw patients’ kin and home care workers closer together.
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