Monday, May 4, 2015

Large Group Attends "End of Life Care"

by Lorrie Hoeh

On Thursday, April 29, an enthusiastic crowd of 55 people attended the latest To Your Health program, "End of Life Care: Having the Conversation," at the Congregational Church in Bethel.  A panel of five professionals, moderated by Al Cressy, shared their expertise on the subject of death and dying and how to prepare oneself and his or her loved ones.

Cressy began with the question: "Why have this conversation about death, and what should be talked about?"  The Rev. Dick Bennett's response was that in our culture we are programmed to fear both death and life. Jane Chandler, a hospice nurse, offered that it is important to listen and hear what a dying person's wishes are. Dr. Roger Austin, medical director of Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice, posited that many are reluctant to have this important conversation, fearing it might induce the person to give up. Emily Ecker, a nursing home social worker, told of the kinds of problems that arise from not having had the talk, not the least of which is the expense involved, as well as quality of life issues. Home Health Aide Michelle Lowell told of her personal experience with a mother whose Alzheimer's disease prevented her from having the talk, resulting in many problems. Her father, however, when diagnosed with cancer, did have the conversation, and the outcome was good for all.

Other questions asked by the moderator were: "How do you start the talk before a crisis situation occurs?" "What do you do if an end-of-life crisis occurs before the conversation takes place?" "What are the things to consider in regard to the conversation?"

In answer to the last question, Ms. Ecker stressed starting early, appointing a health care proxy, determining the type of care in an irreversible condition, and, especially, being sure to complete an advanced directive.  Ms. Chandler advised considering everything, including such things as a "bucket list," letters to grandchildren, etc.   She also emphasized that a patient's wish to stop treatment is not suicide.

 Dr. Kevin Finley of the Bethel Family Health Center stepped up and advised us that one should talk to people of all ages about death and dying and make sure an advanced directive is in place, pointing out that the BFHC has living will forms.  He, too, emphasized the importance of starting the talk EARLY.

After a ten-minute break, the panel addressed audience questions that had been written on cards.  The buzz at the end of the program seemed universally positive.  Most people seemed to feel that they had learned a good deal and were glad they came. 

Moderator Al Cressy, Rev. Dick Bennett, Jane Chandler, Dr. Roger Austin, Emily Ecker, Michelle Lowell    

Rev. Dick Bennett

Dr. Roger Austin     photos L. Hoeh

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