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Hospitals offer end-of-life resources

By Candace Nelson

Few may care to think about it, but local hospitals and other health officials believe determining how to handle end-of-life care is a necessary step as people approach the later years of life.

Hospitals and organizations are offering resources for living wills, advance directives and medical power of attorney documents in light of National Health Care Decisions Day, which is today.

Such steps are intended to help direct care after a person is unable to make his or her own decisions.

"Would you want a feeding tube? Would you want to live on life support machines? Would you want them to do CPR or shock you? These are all important decisions," said Brenda Young, palliative care nurse patient advocate at Thomas Memorial Hospital.

"An advance directive is your living will. It's your decisions made in advance for when you no longer have a voice - whether you're injured or ill and cannot make those decisions for yourself. You appoint somebody in advance to make decisions for you and honor your choices."

Thomas will host its observance of the annual initiative from 9 to 11 a.m. today in its medical pavilion. No appointments are necessary, and there is no cost to fill out the forms.

"We will be doing advance directives and talking to anybody who is interested in them," Young said. "If people complete the forms, we will notarize them and put them on file on the e-Directory, which can be accessed from anywhere in the state.

"If you are anywhere and need the advance directives - maybe you left them at home - you can call the West Virginia e-Directory."

Charleston Area Medical Center staff members will discuss health decisions at the monthly mall walkers meeting at 8:30 a.m. today in Center Court at Charleston Town Center. Participants are people 45 or older who walk laps in the mall in the early morning hours.

CAMC began a partnership with the mall a few months ago to reach the nearly 7 million people who visit Town Center each year with important health information.

"It's something patients don't want to think about. Regardless of age, they need to make sure family is aware of their wishes," said Ashley Showen, who works in CAMC's marketing department.  

"We will provide the mall walkers with several resources and have sample forms for them to fill out with family."

Showen said participants would be encouraged to take the forms home and complete them with their families. The forms can be returned at HealthFest on June 1, when notaries will be available.

The mall walker program is free and open to the community. Participants are given a free parking pass to use between 7 and 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The group meets at 8:30 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month in Center Court.

To join, visit the mall management office between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For more information, call the office at 304-345-9536.

The West Virginia Health Care Association and West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care have partnered to create a series of videos on medical decisions that arise near the end of life.

Dr. Ron Stollings, a state senator and primary care physician, and Dr. Alvin Moss, director for the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care and professor at the WVU School of Medicine, present information on the form addressing a person's desires related to CPR, breathing machines and other life-sustaining treatments.

"Studies repeatedly show that people, including the vast majority of West Virginians, prefer to die comfortably and at home rather than hooked up to machines and tubes in a hospital," Moss said.

"This video series presents facts about the benefits and complications of various medical interventions. Most importantly, it encourages people to talk to their loved ones and health care professionals to decide what medical treatment they want and make their wishes known before a medical crisis occurs."

Patrick Kelly, CEO of the West Virginia Health Care Association, gives an overview of the West Virginia e-Directive Registry, which is coordinated by the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care with support from the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

"Our goal is to help residents of long-term care facilities, and all seniors, age gracefully and with the level of medical care they prefer," Kelly said.

"We hope these informative videos will encourage people to have important conversations with their loved ones and health care professionals regarding their care preferences."

The videos are available at the website www.WVSeniorCare.com.

Advance directive forms, and information about how to submit them, are available at the Center for End-of-Life Care's website, www.wvendoflife.org.

For more information about the West Virginia Health Care Association, visit www.wvhca.org.

Contact writer Candace Nelson at Candace.Nelson@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/Candace07.

 


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