OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) & the End-of-Life Experience (or Wired For Connection)

A synthesis of how tapping into our relationally wired brains can alleviate end-of-life trauma.

Photo of Jodi Glover Thiel
2 2

Written by

How can the deeply relational nature of the human brain be leveraged to create a better end-of-life experience? This question drove my analysis of the interplay between IPNB tenants, end-of-life social/historical details, and Badenoch's expanded view of trauma (painful and frightening experiences that remain uncomforted and disintegrated). 

The summarized findings: The end-of-life experience is innately traumatic. When families and caregivers are unaware of how detachment and cultural avoidance of death impacts the ill/elderly, they unwittingly perpetuate trauma. Trauma is alleviated and a better end-of-life experience ensues, however, when all parties understand the brain's need for connection and prioritize connection and empathy. (Skim through the attached paper for more details.)

Inspired by: the end-of-life experiences of those dear to me; Being Mortal (Dr. Atul Gawande); and Dr. Bill Thomas' work with the Green House Project and Eden Alternative.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Attunement and proximity to an integrated brain is often soothing, whereas rejection or dismissiveness can activate the brain in the same way physical pain does. Ill/elderly clients have been found to progress better medically when their support networks are attuned, and, conversely, to deteriorate at a greater rate when dismissed by those closest to them, both care providers and family.

Tell us about your work experience:

Leveraging human-centered design, social impact assessment, and partnerships creation to drive catalyzing initiatives.


Join the conversation:

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Jodi, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

View all comments