As we enter or leave this world, there are those seldom-thanked individuals that accompany us. We spoke to people who think and talk about living and dying every day

Manager, Ärzteheim nursing home

Running a nursing home is just one of the positions that Dr. Cornel Binder-Krieglstein occupies. He’s also a Red Cross volunteer, an author, a refugee center board member, and an accomplished psychologist – as the many titles in front of his name (Mag. rer. nat. PhDr. Dr. phil) attest.

Juggling so many employees, patients and obligations not only requires patience and determination, but also systems and strategies. Indeed, coping is a large part of Krieglstein’s expertise – he not only assists the elderly in approaching their life’s end, he has also worked extensively in rescue and disaster situations.

His approach to the nursing home is based on a counseling concept called the Langenlois Model, which aims to provide personal care as opposed to attending only to basic needs. “It’s not about just making sure they are fed and bathed and dressed, it’s about them having someone to talk to about their specific needs.”

The Langenlois Model relies on extensive psychological screenings to customize the treatment for each individual. The patients get to list their preferences, from their favorite daily activities to how they want to handle their own deaths. “Our psychologists always work based on theory: we look at the “Ist-Stand” (actual state), then ask what’s needed, then what tools we should utilize.”

This approach may sound technical at first, but as Krieglstein points out, we all have to work based on plans. “It’s important to be in the here and now, but it’s also important to then zoom out on what we’re doing – even for us here: you’ve organized some questions for me, I consider my answers, try to make them not too technical, etc. That’s what we have to do here as well.” As I considered my next question, I got his point.

Everyone has a different approach to dealing with death. One might find it very important, one might leave it for later, one might push it away completely. It’s a very individual and personal thing.