alzheimer's care

Changing the Conversation about Death — Guest Post

I’d like to welcome Jackie St. George, co-founder of Harrison’s Hope,  to my blog today.


Jackie and Jason St. George founded Harrison’s Hope…A Caring Hospice in 2006.   After struggling through her son Harrison’s diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure and surgery at only 2 days old, she understands the stress and uncertainty of caring for a loved one who is ill.  Jackie is a leader in her field with over 12 years of social work experience focusing on Long Term Care, Discharge Planning in the hospital setting, and Geriatric Behavioral Psychology.  For the past seven years, she has dedicated herself to End-of-Life and Hospice care as well as educating the community.  Her passion is evidenced by the level of care Harrison’s Hope provides to our patients and their families.  In Jackie’s words, “By simply asking ‘What do our patients need?’, we find out that patients just want answers and a solution to the medical run-around they have experienced for months or even years.”  Harrison’s Hope…A Caring Hospice was awarded the 2011-2012 Integrity Counts! Award by the Better Business Bureau, confirming that Harrison’s Hope truly is setting the standard of care for hospice in the Treasure Valley.



Changing the Conversation about Death

I have been a Social Worker helping the elderly for thirteen years.  I have been an expert in end of life and hospice care for the last seven. I continue to be amazed at how many people have misconceptions about what hospice is, how it works and when to use it.  I see too many deaths that could have been much less stressful, if only they had planned ahead.  I hear too often “If only we had known about you sooner.”  I experience too many late referrals into the hospice program after suffering for months.

I can help if only I can change the conversation about death.

Myth – “I’m not going to die”

Fact – Death is the only thing in life that is 100% guaranteed.  How you plan for it makes all the difference in the world.  Talking about your wishes for end of life now when you are healthy is the best way to ensure that other people know what your wishes are if you should be become terminally ill.

If you are like most people your focus is on life.  Living life to the fullest each and every day.  Working hard and playing harder is typically the American way.  I agree.  Me too.

However, there is another side to the coin.  If you value life then you should place equal value on the end of your life.  Dying well doesn’t happen by accident and it almost never happens well without a clear plan.  Dying well requires a thoroughly discussed plan involving everyone around you.  Others will feel comfortable carrying out your wishes as long as you have them written down.  Clearing up any possible misinterpretations with in depth conversations about your wishes will prevent unwanted and futile treatments.

Have the conversation about death and your wishes.

  1. Following through with putting your wishes in writing for others to follow.
  2. Updating the documents as time goes on and as your wishes change.
  3. Continuing to have the conversation with your loved ones as you change your wishes.

Make sure the person you name as your Durable Power Of Attorney for Health Care is comfortable carrying out your wishes.  If they are not, then choose someone else.  Carrying your wishes is the job of the DPOA.  It is not their job to carry out their own wishes or change yours.  Make sure the person you have chosen not only knows what you want but feels comfortable doing as you ask.

Lastly, meet with an expert in the field to help you plan for every possible scenario.  A social worker in the field of end of life is likely one of the best resources.  We are everywhere and are very skilled in guiding you and your family through the discussion as well as the documents.

If you or anyone you know need assistance with end of life planning please feel free to call me at  (208) 947-6800, or visit our website.  There is no charge at any time for helping you plan.  It is my passion. I am grateful to serve.

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