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Family engages in end-of-life conversation
MADISON (April 14, 2015)—National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) will be observed nationwide April 16, and many organizations throughout Wisconsin are leading events, encouraging people to “have the conversation” about future medical decisions. As part of the advance care planning movement—a process of understanding, reflecting on and discussing future medical decisions, including end-of-life preferences—families like the Milfords are talking about their wishes.
Last Friday night, James Milford, MD, and his wife, Karen Narloch-Milford, organized their family conversation around a dinner held in the home of their son and daughter-in-law, Jackson and Michelle Milford of Madison. The group of 11, ranging in age from 19 to 60, reflected on past health care experiences; what kinds of care they would and wouldn’t want if they couldn’t speak for themselves; their personal beliefs and preferences toward their medical care; and how to select a health care decision-maker, also known as a health care agent. As the night came to a close, the group began the process of documenting their wishes in an advance directive.
Doctor Milford, a family physician practicing at Watertown Regional Hospital and Rainbow Hospice in Jefferson, Wis., expressed how important it is to have the conversation.
“It’s almost never the patient who has issues with the end-of-life or who’s at peace with the end-of-life, it’s always the family members and it has to do with the conversation,” Dr. Milford said. “It’s about conversation, again and again and again, with the people that you care about and who care about you. That’s what ends up creating a peaceful, meaningful experience at the end of life.”
The dinner was facilitated by Erin Aagesen, community engagement specialist for Honoring Choices Wisconsin, an initiative of the Wisconsin Medical Society and Wisconsin’s state liaison for NHDD. Aagesen said these conversations are not just for the elderly and the terminally ill. They are for anyone who is 18 and older even if, from a younger person’s perspective, the reason for the conversation is hypothetical and years away.
“People talk a lot about paperwork and getting their affairs in order, but it’s really about the conversation, because in those difficult situations the conversation is what’s going to guide your loved ones to understand your values and make decisions for you,” Aagesen said.
As an active 25 year old, Jackson Milford noted that for him, the conversation made him think about “what if” scenarios such as a hunting or motorcycle accident.
“To have the conversation young—it really feels like you can’t have it soon enough,” he said.
For more information about NHDD, visit www.nationalhealthcaredecisionsday.org.
Honoring Choices Wisconsin promotes the benefits of and improves processes for advance care planning across the state, in health care settings and in the community. For more information, visit www.honoringchoiceswi.org. With more than 12,500 members, the Wisconsin Medical Society is the largest association of medical doctors in the state and has been a trusted source for health policy leadership since 1841. For details, visit www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org.
The name “Honoring Choices Wisconsin” is used under license from Twin Cities Medical Society Foundation.