Screening sheds light on end-of-life care

You may know someone who recently revealed they are expecting a baby. Along with that announcement comes a great deal of planning. Parenting philosophies and birth plans are common topics for expectant parents to talk about with their doctor, family and friends.

On the other end of the spectrum, end-of-life philosophies and plans are not often discussed. As a result, many of us know people who came to the end of life completely unprepared for it.

The Sheboygan Advance Care Planning Consortium started a community conversation about advance health care planning in April 2016. Now, a national conversation about what matters most to patients experiencing a terminal illness is coming to the Sheboygan area. We invite you to join that conversation.

We will view and discuss the PBS Frontline documentary “Being Mortal.” Based on the bestselling book of the same name by Dr. Atul Gawande, the film is an emotional, intimate and revealing journey about the challenges of end-oflife matters.

The film follows several patients as they grapple with making decisions about end-of-life care and what they learned through the process. It highlights the importance of talking with doctors and family members about end-of-life care.

Our society is focused on “cures,” and as a result, we often “hope for the best” when a serious illness is diagnosed. Gawande highlights that “hope is not a plan.” Only through sensitive conversations can we learn and honor what is most important to a person at the end. Unfortunately, these important discussions often happen in a crisis … or not at all. The result can be increased suffering for the entire family.

The documentary also raises awareness that advance health care planning is not a one-time event. Completing a written durable power of attorney for health care is very important; however, it is only one step in the process. Individual values and preferences about medical care are hard to capture in a written document. Perspectives may change over time, so discussion is essential.

“Honoring Choices Wisconsin,” an initiative of the Wisconsin Medical Society, found that although 80 percent of people say it is important to put their wishes in writing, only 23 percent have done so. Even worse, only 7 percent of people have spoken to their doctor about their wishes.

Please attend one of two “Being Mortal” events in the Sheboygan and Plymouth areas. We will watch the film and discuss the topic, and resources on how to better approach future health care decisionmaking will be available.

The Sheboygan County Aging and Disability Resource Center, Aurora Health Care, Lakeshore Community Health Care, Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice, Sheboygan Internal Medicine Associates, Sheboygan Progressive Care Center, Sheboygan Senior Activity Center and United Way co-sponsor this program.

Registration is appreciated but not required. Register for either event at, or by calling (920) 451-5513.

Ann Salzmann RN, MA, is the Team Lead-Community Outreach for the Aurora Sheboygan Palliative Care Program and co-chair of the Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center Ethics Committee.