Every once in awhile I come across an article that ends up consuming my entire afternoon.
That happened to me recently when I saw this one from Kaiser Health News (KHN): “‘Put The Fire Under Us’: Church Spurs Parishioners To Plan For Illness And Death.”
In it, KHN writer Melissa Bailey provides a wonderful portrayal of what Pastor Gloria White-Hammond is doing to help the members of her congregation talk more freely about dying—emphasizing the importance of completing advance directives and having essential conversations with family members about end-of-life wishes.
I was really excited to read about this mighty woman’s efforts—since I share the same passion (which is why those last two links will direct you to two episodes of my Dying Talks™ video podcast series).
However, it wasn’t the article itself that took up my afternoon, but a link to a video trailer within it. Bailey writes that Extremis is the documentary that Pastor Gloria serves up with oranges and chocolate chip cookies to get those discussions going.
The film earned an Academy Award nomination and a number of prestigious awards—and it highlights the courageous work of Dr. Jessica Zitter, the author of Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life (affiliate link).
Here’s a glimpse of the power the film contains:
Since I worked in the ICU for 12 years prior to my 15 years in hospice, everything in this clip was so familiar that I was in tears before I was halfway through.
In fact, the types of end-of-life scenarios portrayed are largely what led me out of the ICU and into hospice and palliative care.
Of course, as soon as it ended, I headed to Netflix to watch the whole thing.
Twenty-five minutes and several tissues later, I clicked off the TV and sat down at my desk to write this post.
Having end-of-life conversations before they’re needed is so critical—as are the advance directives to support them.
If you choose to watch the documentary—I’ll warn you that it may be difficult.
It may bring up painful memories for those of you who’ve been through what the patients and families there have endured.
However, if you haven’t had these conversations with your loved ones, and/or don’t already have your advance directives in place—hopefully you’ll be adding that to your to-do list by the time the credits start to roll.
Here are a few websites that can help you get started:
- Aging with Dignity: Includes information about the Five Wishes living will.
- American Cancer Society: Provides an extensive overview—including information about the Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA).
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s (NHPCO) CaringInfo: Includes general information and free state-specific advance directive forms that you can download.
- National POLST Paradigm: Includes detailed information about Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), as well the status of each state regarding its use of POLST.
- The Conversation Project: Dedicated to “helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care.”
And some books* you may find helpful:
- Advance Directives, Durable Power of Attorney, Wills, and Other Legal Considerations (Alzheimer’s Roadmap) (Volume 3) by Laura Town and Karen Kassel (affiliate link) “The Alzheimer’s Roadmap series was designed by a caregiver for caregivers. Each book provides checklists on a given topic to help caregivers know what they need to do as they travel through their difficult journey. “
- Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life by Jessica Zitter, M.D. (affiliate link) “Extreme Measures charts Zitter’s journey from wanting to be one kind of hero to becoming another—a doctor who prioritizes the patient’s values and preferences in an environment where the default choice is the extreme use of technology…Filled with rich patient stories that make a compelling medical narrative, Extreme Measures enlarges the national conversation as it thoughtfully and compassionately examines an experience that defines being human.”
- I’ll Have It My Way: Taking Control of End of Life Decisions: a Book about Freedom & Peace by Hattie Bryant (affiliate link) “I’ll Have It My Way credibly and passionately presents the case for personal responsibility in the healthcare, legal, and procedural decisions that all of us must make―if they are not to be made for us. By making our wishes known and communicating them effectively, we remove the burden from our loved ones of making the deeply personal choices that will enable us to live our lives more fully to the end…”
- The practical guide to Health Care Advance Directives (2015 Edition) by Jo Kline Cebuhar, J.D. (affiliate link) Per one expert’s recommendation on Amazon: “This book is written for the lay person and is by far the best and clearest that I have seen. If someone, anywhere—not just the USA—wants a book to explain what Advance Directives are all about, why they need them, and how to (and how not to) go about doing it, then I would be happy to recommend this book.” – Dr. Roger Woodruff, Lifetime Board Member of the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC).
For more resources about advance directives and peaceful dying, please visit our page, Resources for the Journey.
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*Disclaimer: I haven’t yet been able to read each book that’s listed. I’ve selected them based on the reviews they’ve received from readers, as well as the credibility of the authors or organizations associated with them. I recommend that you do the same, and make your purchase decisions at your own discretion.
This post was originally published 1/4/18 @ 0300 under the title, “Another New Year’s resolution? Complete advance directives.” It was revised, updated and republished 1/25/18 @ 1910 under the current title. Republished 4/16/18.