If the recent large turnout to a screening of Dr. Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal” PBS Frontline documentary is any indication, people are beginning to contemplate what really matters in the end.
With that understanding comes the need to have those tough but important conversations with loved ones and our health care providers. But it’s not just a single “talk” with the elders in the family. Or checking the box that says “Do you have Advance Directives” at our annual checkup.
It has to be a continuing discussion with others about how we want to live each day until the end of our time. Sharing your wishes with family and providers lets them understand what you value. It’s a gift they can give you by respecting your choices.
Death and dying in America has changed dramatically in the last 100 years. A century 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 were likely to care for sick and dying relatives.
The result was that most people had a fairly personal and direct experience with dying and death. Since then, death at home in the care of family has been widely replaced. New scientific breakthroughs and medical technologies can now be used to fight illness and death. The personal process of dying is often lost in the attempt to prolong life at all cost.
“Whatever Happened to Natural Causes: Historical Perspectives on Death and Dying,"is an upcoming opportunity for the public to learn more about the complex choices being faced by today’s generations. On Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 6:00pm at the Tech Village in Conway, Dr. Marianne Jackson is presenting a free program that looks at end-of-life issues and the importance of advance care discussions.
Dr. Jackson is one of a group of trained “Respecting Choices” facilitators in the local Community Health Collaborative. Led by Visiting Nurse, Home Care & Hospice and Memorial Hospital Population Health, the group has several community-based projects underway that focus on advance care planning.
In addition to the recent “Being Mortal” Film Screening and Discussion, the collaborative is offering weekly advance care planning assistance, completion of advance care documents, and continuing education.
On Wednesday, Oct. 26, a panel of various speakers will discuss options and choices for getting the right care in the right place. The free program starts at 6:oopm at the Tech Village. Trained facilitators will be available after both the Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 programs to meet with attendees one-on-one and answer questions.
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, but many are working to change that. As Dr. Gawande reminds us, “Death, of course, is not a failure. Death is normal. Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things.”
For more information, call VNHCH at 356-7006 or 800-499-4171, or visit www.VNHCH.org.
(”Home Care Matters” is a monthly column written by Visiting Nurse, Home Care & Hospice, sharing information on healthy aging and important home health topics. Past columns can be accessed at the agency’s website, www.VNHCH.org.)