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Start Talking Now About End-Of-Life Choices

Imagine you learn today that your mother has just suffered a serious stroke and is in the hospital. Then imagine that you are now being asked to make decisions about her medical care. You just had lunch with her last week and she seemed so healthy.

Most of us would find that we are unprepared to face the decisions in front of us, much less handle the emotional tsunami that comes with a serious diagnosis.

Hospice teams throughout Vermont are trained and experienced in guiding families through these situations. However, too often families struggle during the last weeks of a loved one’s life. That is why Vermont’s non-profit home health and hospice agencies have launched an initiative to encourage families to talk about their end-of-life wishes before a health crisis or serious diagnosis.

“Start the Conversation” aims to educate people on end-of-life care choices – specifically hospice and palliative care. It also provides tools and resources to help families talk about this topic with each other and with their physician. Worksheets, conversation starters, and questionnaires help you explore what care options and choices may be considered.

Home health agencies are partnering with the Vermont Ethics Network to bring guidance and support on completing an advance directive (used to be called “Living Wills”). Advance directives are the legal documents that define your wishes for medical care. They may also name your health care agent, the person who will make decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself.

The most common feedback our hospice programs hear from families is, “We wish we had known about Hospice care earlier.” Knowing your options is an important first step.

Now imagine again the phone rings. It is your mom calling to meet you for lunch. Take the time to visit for help and free resources then make sure to have this special conversation. It’s really a gift from one generation to the next.

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