Hospice patient Geraldine Musser is talking about the dream she had about her mother, who died many years ago.
“She’s coming outside in her flowered dress with her apron on. It means she’s out there. When I die, I’ll see her again,” says Geraldine.
Hospice Buffalo is working on a groundbreaking research study on dreams and visions of the dying.
“I was taking care of patients all of a sudden who were all dying, and I was witnessing something that I had neither been trained to understand or knew how to interpret,” explains Dr. Christopher Kerr, chief medical officer at Hospice Buffalo.
So Dr. Kerr began a study in 2011 with 66 patients. They now have 1,300 reported incidents in several follow-up studies.
“I thought it was very important to legitimize these patients, to quantify it, to put it in a context that doctors would understand,” says Dr. Kerr.
Researchers asked patients specific questions about their dreams and recorded the answers.
“What was this like for you? Does this remind you of anything? Does this affect your sense of meaning or purpose in life, your attitudes about death and dying? “ asks Rachel Depner, a clinical researcher.
The first study results were published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. It turns out these dreams and visions are comforting and profoundly meaningful to those dying.
“This idea of love and forgiveness seem to be an overarching theme that makes people whole again as they’re approaching death,” said Dr. Kerr.
Just listen to Geraldine.
“It makes you feel better knowing they’re there.”
Further research is ongoing at Hospice Buffalo involving hundreds of patients, and researchers are currently analyzing more than 550 dreams. For more information, visit The Journal of Palliative Medicine.