Show Overview

I am delighted to interview hospice doc BJ Miller and grant manager Amber Slichta on this episode of Dance Past Sunset, the third and final where I interview caregiving superstars who share CTAC’s vision to help Americans with advanced illness, especially the most vulnerable among us, to get comprehensive, high-quality, family-centered care where and when they need it, and in a way that honors their dignity. That makes all the people working toward that vision heroes in my mind, and I am fortunate to have had a few join me on the show.

One of the guests you’ll hear from today is well known among those of us who work to reclaim death as a natural human experience instead of primarily a clinical medical one. His name is BJ Miller. I knew of BJ from his inspiring work as a palliative care doctor with the Zen Hospice Center and from his TED Talk, so when I had a chance to meet him in person at CTAC, well, it was an incredible honor. When you hear him speak, I think you’ll see why.

But first, let’s drop in on a fun conversation I was having with another amazing guest from the CTAC conference, Amber Slichta from the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation. Now if you don’t know of Ralph Wilson, he is best known as the founder and 54-year owner of the Buffalo Bills football team, and upon his passing he left a small fortune, check that, a huge fortune, $1.2 Billion and counting to be exact, that by his direction is to be granted out to the last penny by the year 2035. It’s part of Amber’s job to ensure those investments are done wisely and in accordance with Mr. Wilson’s wishes, which are clearly stated on the foundation’s website. But Let me give you a hint — if you are working in the field of caregiving or livable communities in Western New York or Southeast Michigan, then you’re gonna wanna pay attention.

One last thing before we start. If you are with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, I want you to know I was just kidding about barbecuing a Pug. I meant to say barbecued PIG.

What you will learn from Amber Slichta, Vice President of Programs, Ralph Wilson Foundation

  • How a pet cat helped a husband care for his wife
  • The quickest and best job she ever got
  • What she learned that surprised her from the CTAC conference
  • Healthcare is only 10% of what contributes to quality health
  • The pug factor. How pets help solve the problem of loneliness
  • Amber helps the Wilson Foundation invest a $1.2 Billion huge pile of wow

What you will learn from BJ Miller, Palliative Care Doctor

  • “Let death be what takes us, not a failure of imagination.” BJ Miller
  • What BJ would write on his own headstone
  • The sweet efficiency of how helping others helps you
  • If he could make the world anyway he wanted to, what would it look like? What problems would solve and how?
  • The value of design and beauty in the built environment. Awakening the world of craft.
  • The value of delighting in the wonder of one’s body.
  • The scourge of loneliness and isolation
  • How does he balance the need for companionship with the opportunity to learn from it.
  • Body parts that are superior to the natural ones. It could happen!
  • A note of caution: That we use out inventions and not the other way around.
  • The flawed language, and associated thinking, when illness and death become blurred.
  • We should not overly orphan suffering with black and white thinking and language
  • Losses and gains are completely intertwined

If there sounds like there’s a party going on in the background, well, there is!

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