End-of-life planning worth talking about: Forum

Categories: In The Media.

Romano, team lead for spiritual and religious care at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, said people think if they write a will, they will die.

Some think if they talk about the subject of themselves or others they love dying, it will happen.

Others believe writing a will is tempting fate.

It is not, Romano told an audience of about 500 people at an end-of-life forum at the Steelworkers’ Hall.

It was the second such forum organized by Health Sciences North and its partners, the North East Community Care Access Centre, Maison Vale Hospice, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and Warmhearts Palliative Caregivers.

At the beginning of the forum, moderator Leo Therrien, executive director of Maison Vale Hospice, asked how many members of the audience had attended the first forum in January and almost every person raised their hand.

End-of-life planning can be a difficult subject to broach, but discussing how you want the end of your life to play out can bring families together, promote family reconciliation and create good memories, Romano told the crowd.

Rather than being the morbid exercise many people fear, it can be life-giving, she said.

Romano suggested audience members use their attendance at the forum as an opening to begin the conversation with family about their end of life care.

An open, honest and transparent conversation with the people who are important in your life is vital, she said.

It’s also important to spell out your wishes and not expect loved ones to know or have to guess what type of care you would like to receive when dying or what type of funeral arrangements you want made.

Be prepared for a roller-coaster of emotions to emerge, but it’s all part of a healthy discussion about a subject that has clearly captured the attention of Sudburians.

Brenda Cunningham, who has suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for 35 years, admitted end-of-life planning is a subject she has thought about but has avoided.

After suffering a serious lung infection last Easter that left her unable to breathe, she began thinking it was time to get her house in order.

Cunningham, 65, still hasn’t written out her plans for end-of-life care, but she has thought about them and wants to focus on quality of life in the end.

She intends to write that plan as her gift to her grown children, easing the burden on her family.

Lawyer Lise Poratto-Mason spoke of the importance of end of life and estate planning, saying the law provides useful tools for people to maintain “an element of control.”

She urged people to seek professional legal advice to have wills and powers of attorney for both financial and medical care prepared, and not to rely on the advice of friends or on forms downloaded from the Internet.

Many of the forms found online are from the United States and aren’t valid in Canada, Poratto-Mason said.

She also urged audience members to discuss their end-of-life care wishes with their family physicians, who may be called upon in hospital to execute them.