Continuing the Conversation on Advance Care Planning
More than 120 people turned out for the “Being Mortal: Film Screening & Discussion” hosted by the Community Health Collaborative earlier this month.
October 27, 2016
During the past century, America has evolved into a culture that prefers to deny death. It seems we generally are unprepared to accept our mortality – let alone plan for it.
A hundred years ago, communicable diseases like influenza, tuberculosis, and diphtheria were the leading causes of death in the United States. Many deaths occurred at home where families cared for sick and dying relatives.
The result was that most people had a personal and direct experience with dying and death. Today, people fear that the personal process of dying is often lost in the attempt to prolong life at all cost.
But if the recent large turnout at a screening of the “Being Mortal” PBS Frontline documentary is any indication, people are beginning to contemplate what matters most at the end of their lives.
More than 120 people attended the film and panel discussion organized by the Community Health Collaborative earlier this month.
Before attendees left that evening, they filled out surveys. One question asked, “What one word describes how you feel after watching and talking about Being Mortal?” The answers reflect a range of responses from “Grateful,” “Hopeful, and “Inspired” to “Alone,” “Overwhelmed” and “Now!”.
Sandy Ruka, MS RN, is executive director of Visiting Nurse, Home Care & Hospice and chair of the collaborative’s advance care planning committee. She and her colleagues are very pleased with attendance at the event and several follow-up programs. And she’s not surprised by people’s reactions.
“It’s clear by the response that this is a subject that matters. As healthcare providers, our group is committed to helping people get started with those important but difficult family conversations,” Ruka said.
Rev. Mary Edes, co-moderator of the Being Mortal event, said people need a guide to take those first steps down a difficult and unfamiliar road.
“We want people to know about the choices they have and talk with each other about the values that matter most to them,” she said. “We need to transform the cultural norm from not talking about how we want to live at the end of life to talking about it.”
This year, representatives from Visiting Nurses, Memorial Hospital and others in the collaborative have been carrying out their strategy for bringing these discussions to the places where people live and work. In addition to hosting community education programs, a free advance care planning service is now available at several locations. People can make appointments to meet with a certified “Respecting Choices” facilitator at Visiting Nurses, Saco River Medical Group, Memorial Hospital and more.
“It can make a huge difference when people can turn to others for ideas, resources and support,” Ruka said. “We are really committed to meeting the needs of our community, welcome feedback, and look forward to ongoing partnerships.”
“Being Mortal” is a national effort by Hospice Foundation of America to present the film in communities throughout the country and sponsored locally by Cooper Cargill Chant, PA.
Panelists included Rev. Sean Dunker Bendigo, Dr. David Ladley of Saco River Medical Group, Jayne Maher of ServiceLink, Memorial Hospital discharge planner Jennifer Grise, family caregiver Jane Duggan, attorney Deborah Fauver of Cooper Cargill Chant, and Dr. Rachel Hamilton of Primary Care at Memorial Hospital.
In “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” Dr. Atul Gawande writes, "Technological society has forgotten what scholars call the 'dying role' and its importance to people as life approaches its end.
"People want to share memories, pass on wisdoms and keepsakes, settle relationships, establish their legacies, make peace with God, and ensure that those who are left behind will be okay. They want to end their stories on their own terms."