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Yes, it’s uncomfortable.

Talking about advance care planning with loved ones – for you and for them – is not a conversation people look forward to having.

Who wants to discuss last wishes, or directions to carry out if someone’s incapacitated?

But it’s a conversation baby boomers and others should be having, because when it doesn’t happen, the stress on families can be immense.

The Age Wave Initiative Advance Care Planning Coalition seeks to spread the word, to educate people across Lebanon County about end-of-life issues. The coalition held two Zoom presentations earlier this month, explaining what’s needed and why, and giving participants the tools to follow through.

The goal is to get churches, service organizations and other community groups to hold their own presentations. Coalition members can provide speakers and materials, as well as help with planning and marketing.

“We want the conversation to start,” coalition volunteer Kathleen Hetrick told LebTown.

The Age Wave Initiative Advance Care Planning Coalition is part of the Age Wave Initiative of Lebanon County, a group of business, health care and aging services professionals concerned with the changing demographics of the baby boomers and advocating for the services they will need.

The aging of that sizable generation, with many now over 60 years old, is going to cause societal and family issues, Hetrick said.

So the Age Wave Initiative (itself an initiative of the Community Health Council of Lebanon County) is focused on changes needed over the next 20 years in housing, transportation, employment/training/voluntarism and health care/long-term care, as well as who will make the changes and pay for them.

The Advance Care Planning Coalition uses some stark numbers about how unprepared many people are.

For example, 90% say talking with loved ones about end-of-life issues is important, but only 27% have done so (from The Conversation Project National Survey, 2013).

Then there’s this, from the 2012 Survey of Californians by California Healthcare Foundation:

  • 60% say making sure family is not burdened by tough decisions is extremely important, but 56% have not communicated their end-of-life wishes.
  • 80% say if seriously ill, they would want to talk to their doctor about wishes for medical treatment toward the end of life, but only 7% report having this conversation.
  • 82% say it’s important to put their wishes in writing, but only 23% have done it.

People should have a living will as well as a durable power of attorney for health care – a person who will make health care decisions for you if can’t make them yourself. Those are often combined into an advance care directive for health care. A Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment, or POLST, signed by a doctor, is also part of the advanced-care package.

Hetrick said to be sure to discuss the health care power of attorney with the person you name. She’s had situations where the individual listed on the document as being in that role was not consulted, she said.

One of the forms that combines a living will with health care power of attorney is WellSpan Health’s “five wishes.”

The first wish is naming a health care proxy. The others:

“My wish for the kind of medical treatment I do or don’t want at the end of my life.”

“My wish for how comfortable I want to be.”

“My wish for how I want people to treat me.”

“My wish for what I want my loved ones to know.”

As Age Wave asks, “How many of you have had these conversations with loved ones?” and “How many of those loved ones have had this conversation with you?”

For instance, what treatment do you want if you receive a traumatic brain injury? The five wishes booklet and other advanced care planning tools and resources allow you to make decisions based on your religious, cultural and personal beliefs.

For more information on scheduling an Advanced Care Planning Coalition presentation, contact Roberta Geidner at 717-812-6065 or rgeidner@wellspan.org.

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Paula Wolf worked for 31 years as a general assignment reporter, sports columnist, and editorial writer for LNP Media. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, she is a lifetime resident of Lancaster County.


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