Speaker series provides guidance on end-of-life decisions | SteamboatToday.com

Speaker series provides guidance on end-of-life decisions

If you go
  • Sept. 20: Advanced Care Planning: Navigating the Paperwork
  • Sept. 27: Hospice Care: Facts & Fallacies
  • Oct. 4: Colorado End of Life Options Act
  • Oct. 11: Death: Now What?
When: Noon to 1 p.m. Thursdays Where: United Methodist Church, 736 Oak St. More information: heartofsteamboat.com  

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — They aren’t the easiest conversations to have or decisions to make.

“We spend a lot of time thinking about how to live well,” said attorney Jean Manifesto. “But how much time do we spending thinking about how to die well?”

In a series of four upcoming talks, speakers will provide insight and information on every legal, medical, family, financial, spiritual, emotional and logistical aspect surrounding end-of-life decisions.

“These are choices we can make while we are still healthy,” Manifesto told an audience of about 50 people at the introductory talk last Thursday, titled “Being Mortal: Starting the Conversation.”

The series is hosted free-of-charge by the Heart of Steamboat United Methodist Church and will be held at noon every Thursday for the next four weeks.

“The population is aging here, and it is a subject people really need to discuss,” said Gloria James, who is on Heart of Steamboat’s engagement committee. “It is a fact of life that we are all going to die, whether we like it or not.”

James said her son was grateful for the information she provided him regarding her own decisions.

“If you don’t spend time preparing,” James said “There’s the danger your wishes will not be fulfilled.”

The first featured speaker, Dr. Jo Anne Grace from Northwest Colorado Health’s Hospice Program, focused on the very beginning steps in gathering thoughts, making decisions and talking about them with family, friends, medical providers and other trusted advisors.

Grace guided the attendees through a worksheet put together by The Conversation Project and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

She gave some of the contradictory statistics.

  • While 60 percent of people say making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is extremely important, 56 percent have not communicated their end-of-life wishes.
  • While 80 percent of people say that if seriously ill, they would want to talk to their doctor about end-of-life care, only 7 percent report having had an end-of-life conversation with their doctor.

There’s a natural reluctance and resistance to having these difficult conversations, acknowledged Grace. But lessening the taboo, and talking about it more “heightens your ability to live more fully.”

Making decisions and having the appropriate paperwork in order, she said, also lessens the burden on spouses and families and can help reduce conflict among family members, especially in blended families.

“Nothing brings out family dysfunction more than death,” Manifesto said.

“You have to do your own inner work,” Grace said, as people wrote answers to questions about how much they want to know from doctors when they are dying and who they want to be with. First and foremost, “It’s important to figure out what you want.”

Manifesto also stressed the importance of decision-making through disability. While people used to “get old and sick and die, now people get old and sick and live.”

And, she noted, “Even with the most extensive planning, death is messy. You may not be able to have your plan go exactly as you want.”

However, Manifesto said, “If you make choices while you have the mental capacity to do so, you are in the position to direct it a little bit.”

For more information on the speaker series, visit heartofsteamboat.com/speakerseries. For more information on how to get the conversation started, visit theconversationproject.org.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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