Originally published in Castine Patriot, April 12, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, April 12, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, April 12, 2018
‘Start the conversation’ on end-of-life care, local groups advise
Events around National Health Care Decision Day
by Anne Berleant
National Healthcare Decision Day, April 16, was designed as the day people fill out advance directives, or decisions on and wishes for end-of-life care.
“We all navigate this world knowing that it is finite,” Healthy Peninsula Executive Director Janet Lewis said. “[Advance directives] are a way to have control over your dying.”
Healthy Peninsula is driving the local initiative as Choices That Matter, with events that inform and assist the process.
“It’s important to start the conversation early (and have it often) so that when the time of dying comes, important decisions about what is and is not desired for end of life care have been discussed,” said Dr. Susan Ostertag, a Healthy Peninsula workshop co-leader.
Already, local healthcare facilities and organizations have brought what can be a very difficult topic more out in the open.
“Our perspective is it’s a movement to de-stigmatize the discussion of death,” Lewis said. “It’s a gift for families.”
Advance directives can give a person control over how they die in simple but important ways, such as what music to play in their final days, to specific instructions on life-sustaining efforts like feeding tubes and hydration.
“A lot of people are not familiar with the details of end-of-life care, whether from sudden death or a long illness,” Lewis said. “Starting the conversation is the hard part.”
“It’s better not to have to talk when in crisis,” added coordinator Becky Pease, with Hospice Volunteers of Hancock County.
The Advance Directive form allows (but does not require) a person to:
Choose an agent: someone to make health care decisions now or if you become too ill in the future.
Choose specific treatments: which life-extending treatments you want under which circumstances.
Choose treatment for pain or discomfort relief.
Name your primary physician.
Decide on organ/tissue donation at death.
Provide instructions on funeral and burial arrangements.
Copies should be filed with your primary physician and entered into your electronic medical records, and given to your agent.
While Healthcare Decision Day is a national effort, locally “this is a grass-roots, community driven project,” Lewis said. “The idea came from community members who had the conversation with their parents and came to us.”
Local and online resources
Brooksville, Brooklin and Blue Hill libraries: display tables with information, advance directive template, “Before I die” boards
Blue Hill Memorial Hospital: information tables, staff challenge to sign Advance Directive, forms given to all patients upon discharge
My Life Directive, online registry lists emergency contacts, medical information and advance directives, mylifedirective.org
Maine Advance Care Directive Forms, maine.gov/ag/elder_issues/living_will.shtml
National Healthcare Decisions day website, NHDD.org
The Conversation Project, resources for conversation with loved ones on end-of-life choices, TheConversationProject.org
Free Local Events
“Consider the Conversation” film followed by panel discussion, Thursday, April 19, 6-8 p.m., Blue Hill Library:
Clinic of expertise: Dr. Susan Ostertag and clinical psychologist Barbara Sinclair available to answer questions, help with forms, Saturday, April 21, 1-2:30 p.m., 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Blue Hill Library.
Choices That Matter workshop, information, assistance, Saturday, April 21, Island Community Cneter, Stonington
“Choices That Matter: Optimizing Healthcare Decisions for Difficult Times” workshop, Thursday, May 2 and May 9, 4-5:30 p.m., Blue Hill Library.
Partners in Choices That Matter include the Blue Hill Library, Hospice Volunteers of Hancock County, Blue Hill Memorial Hospital,Healthy Island Project, VNA/Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and Penobscot Bay Press.
For more information contact Healthy Peninsula at 374-2357 and firstname.lastname@example.org.