As our time winds down, we all seek comfort in simple pleasures -- companionship, everyday routines, the taste of good food, the warmth of sunlight on our faces. We become less interested in the rewards of achieving and accumulating, and more interested in the rewards of simply being.
-- Dr. Atul Gawande, “Being Mortal”
There’s growing awareness about the need to break through the silence that surrounds death and dying in our culture. This includes having important discussions with family and healthcare providers about the values that matter most to us and how we want to live at the end of our lives.
However, trying to change cultural norms is never easy. Ninety percent of Americans know they should have conversations about end-of-life care, yet only 30 percent have done so. What people most often need is help getting started, a guide to spark reflection and discussion about the need for these conversations.
The Hospice Foundation of America (HFA) is sponsoring a national public awareness campaign on the importance of talking about end-of-life preferences and values with loved ones and medical professionals. The project uses the PBS Frontline film, “Being Mortal,” to educate audiences and encourage people to take concrete steps to identify and communicate their wishes for end-of-life care.
The Mt. Washington Valley community will have an opportunity to see the film and participate in the national conversation on Wednesday, Oct. 5, starting at 6PM at Kennett High School. Visiting Nurse, Home Care & Hospice has been selected by HFA to coordinate a local screening and follow-up discussion. The evening is free and open to the public.
“Being Mortal” follows physician Atul Gawande as he thinks about death and dying in the context of being a healer. The renowned writer and Boston surgeon shares stories about experiences at the end of life from patients and his own family. He shows how doctors – himself included – are often ill-suited and uncomfortable talking about chronic illness and death with their patients.
"Technological society has forgotten what scholars call the 'dying role' and its importance to people as life approaches its end," Gawande wrote in his book. "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."
Emphasizing that “hope is not a plan,” Dr. Gawande reminds us that our ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death, but a good life to the very end.
For more information about the upcoming screening or other home health care questions, call VNHCH at 356-7006 or 800-499-4171, or visit www.VNHCH.org.