Film explores end-of-life care
by James Coburn, Staff Writer
Good Shepherd Hospice in Oklahoma City was recently selected to be a screening site for the “Being Mortal” project by the Hospice Foundation of America.
“It’s a FRONTLINE and PBS documentary about how doctors approach those tough discussions with their patients regarding end-of-life and how they tell their patients it is time to make decisions,” said Christa Cook, volunteer services coordinator.
Sometimes making a transition to hospice care may be late in the process, making the coping process with end-of-life care more difficult for families with terminally ill loved ones.
It’s important to have end-of-life discussions. Some families wait until three days before their loved one’s passing, Cook said.
“It’s a wonderful program. It’s based on the book “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” by Dr. Atul Gawande,” said Sharon Nash, RN, executive director of Good Shepherd Hospice. “It’s a fabulous video.”
The project has been produced and Good Shepherd has been selected to go out into the community and show it to as many lay people and medical professionals as possible, Nash said. It is hoped the project will educate patients to approach their physicians to enter discussions and to also empower doctors with the importance of being honest and open with patients.
“It’s pretty emotional,” Nash said. “It brings up a lot of feelings. So after we show it, the requirement is we have a panel and have some questions and answers to respond to the feelings that come up.”
Seventy percent of Americans say they would prefer to die at home, but nearly 70 percent die in hospitals and institutions. Ninety percent of Americans know they should have conversations about end-of-life care, yet only 30 percent have done so, Cook pointed out.
“We’re trying to have people take the initiative, even the medical professionals to take the initiative and to be alright with that discussion. It’s hard to do,” Cook said.
So often hospice receives people during the last few days of their life, making it difficult to get their symptoms under control for comfort and care and get them to a peaceful place, Nash said.
“Sometimes they’re dying before we can even get the admission paperwork done,” Nash said.
Bereavement counseling is offered to the family members for 13 months officially, but Good Shepherd will follow grieving loved ones for as long as they want.
One of the Good Shepherd Hospice volunteers was assigned to the wife of a patient on hospice services. The volunteer was making visits as assigned by the bereavement coordinator.
“She continued the relationship with the wife of the patient,” Cook said. “And just recently the wife of the patient has entered our service.”
“The family remembered the contact that they made at the time of the husband’s death and called me. The daughter said, ‘My mom is ready for hospice and we would like that volunteer to come and sit with my mom.’ And yesterday that volunteer was there and that patient had passed away.”
Cook said that the bereavement process that had helped the wife at one time is now helping the woman’s daughter who has lost both of her parents.
“It was really neat to see all of that transpire because it’s been a really long time that the husband was on our service. It was four years ago,” Cook said. “So our bereavement program is wonderful.”
Nash said Good Shepherd Hospice will be posting on its Facebook page information about where and when to see “Being Mortal” in the community. The film is free and information about it will also be listed on the Good Shepherd website.
The screening is made possible by a grant from The John and Wauna Harmon Foundation in partnership with the Hospice Foundation of America.
Nash said there is a lot she loves about being a hospice nurse. She values people being able to make decisions about end-of-life care while having comfort and dignity at that time.
“We offer peace and comfort. We help them make decisions and support their decisions,” Nash said. “And we walk with them on a really hard journey.”