By Medb Mahony Sichko
Ninety percent of Americans believe the conversation is important, although only 30 percent have had it.
Do you know what the conversation is? Signs may be coming to a subway station near you. Or the conversation may pop up in other places, especially as November begins.
Perhaps you’ve read Brigham-and-Women-surgeon Atul Gawande’s best-selling book “Being Mortal”? In narrating the story of patient Lazaroff who is terminally ill, but his medical team can’t make him understand that, Gawande explains that medical schools teach their students to help patients live, not how to help them die with dignity.
So, here’s the buzz. Inspired by a long struggle making medical decisions for her mother, Pulitzer Prize winning Boston Globe writer Ellen Goodman has founded The Conversation Project, designed to engage people in “kitchen table” style discussions with family and friends about end-of-life care.
To lead you into the conversation, King’s Chapel is offering an evening with Joyce Gallagher, RN, BSN, MSEd, director of nursing at Good Shepherd Community Care, at 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 64 Beacon St., second floor. She will provide insight into and guidance toward assuring your end of life wishes are carried out. If possible, please bring the person you would choose to act on your behalf for end-of-life decisions.
As Gallagher says, “As soon as you become an adult, you should identify someone who will make your articulated decisions for you. Your loved one should know what your wishes are if, at any point, you are incapacitated and can’t speak for yourself. These articulated wishes can and should be documented.”
Gallagher is currently director of nursing at Good Shepherd Community Care, the first hospice in Massachusetts. She has been a hospice nurse for over 13 years and has been a nurse for many more with past specialties in operating rooms, holistic and mind body medicine and wellness and prevention. She is a graduate of Columbia University and is a certified yoga teacher and Reiki Master.
Working in end of life care has inspired her to help create a heightened awareness of choices at the end of life and advanced directives. She has helped many who struggle with decisions for themselves and their families and for loved ones who have become unable to make their wishes known.
Rising to the challenge offered by the Conversation Project, local churches and synagogues will be hosting a Conversation Sabbath from Nov. 6 to 15. Ongoing exploration of the conversation is available at various locations in Boston, including: Old South Church, Temple Israel, Bethel AME Church, First Church in Cambridge (Congregational), First Church in Boston (Unitarian Universalist) Fourth Presbyterian, Emmanuel Church and Central Reform Temple.
For more information, contact Katie Stinchon of The Conversation Project at 617-269-7171 or Katie@teakmedia.com.