Taylor Pardue Staff Reporter
October 10, 2013
End-of-life care is a situation many face when looking after an elderly loved one. It requires a lot of thought and a definite knowledge of what the person’s wishes are concerning their final days in life.
Hospice and Palliative CareCenter and Rowan Hospice and Palliative Care gave a full day of speakers and specials Thursday to give people in the public and medical profession more information on planning for future health care needs.
The conference “Conversations Today or Crisis Tomorrow: Planning Ahead for Life’s Final Journey” was held Oct. 3 in the Yadkinville United Methodist Church sanctuary. It was open to the public, who were invited to register beforehand online.
Speakers included Dr. Michael Lalor, the chief medical officer for Hospice and Palliative Care Center.
Lalor spoke on a recent medical issue with his mother and how, even as a doctor, he was unprepared for the questions his mother’s physicians had to ask.
After more than 15 years in the medical profession Lalor said he had neglected the thing people most needed to do before a crisis occurred. He had never spoken to his mother about what her wishes were concerning end of life care. He had no idea what her choice was concerning a living will and was not able to ask her due to her illness.
Eventually Lalor’s mother recovered and he was able to sort out the details of what to do in case of a future emergency, but others are not so fortunate.
Lalor urged the audience to ask the important questions like preferences for end-of-life care and to ask often, as these choices are constantly changing. Asking once a decade ago may or may not be the real wishes of a loved one now.
A panel of clinical experts from around the area met on stage for a round-table discussion and to answer questions from the audience.
Kathy Oakley, a registered nurse and team leader with Hospice, stressed the fact that a patient is the boss in his or her health care decisions. While the doctor is an important part of one’s care, he or she should not make a person feel like they do not have a say in their own life choices.
Dr. Cathy Shore, a Hospice physician, told the audience to let their families know what their wishes are, preventing misunderstandings or surprises later on.
Tina Elam, chief nursing officer for Yadkinville Community Hospital, said the moment a crisis occurs is not the time to start making plans and asking questions. She added that end of life care is a decision of love, not a medical one.
Catherine Swift from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center told the audience not to be afraid to bring up questions or issues to a doctor.
A special one-woman play was given by award-winning actress Judith Gantly, entitled “Waltzing the Reaper.”
The play split its time between two women and their experiences with end-of-life care: an elderly woman preparing to die and her care-giving daughter-in-law.
The woman watched from outside her body as her family kept her “living” on machines. She talked to the audience about her wish to either live or leave, not linger in that in-between stage her family insisted on.
She talked about how her daughter-in-law was too proper and could not relate to her freewheeling lifestyle.
The daughter-in-law, in the second half of the play, talked to the audience and gave her side of the story. Her acting showed the misunderstandings about the two and how if they had spoken from the heart they could have been very close to each other.
The play illustrated the need not only for end-of-life discussions but for honesty in all areas of a relationship.
The theme of the play was essentially the same as the conference: don’t wait too long to have important discussions with those you love.
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