As soon as Ethel Herring opened the front door and walked into the house, she knew her mother had died. She could feel it in the energy in the room. It hung in the air like a pause. “I walked right into the bedroom. I just knew the minute I opened the door to the house. There’s a lack of energy. It’s like a lightbulb goes out,” she recalls, as swirling plumes of steam rise from her mug of tea on the table. Ethel is warm, vivacious, and sharp — despite the fact that she has been laying low, recovering from “whatever that cold crud was.” Along her coffee table are family photos and a card that reads I Stand With Planned Parenthood. Her mother’s death may have been decades ago, but she recalls it as if it was yesterday. Deeply moved by the death of both of her parents,
Inside a 50-state Movement Are you in? You know the adage. The one about death and taxes. Ben Franklin said those are the only two certainties in this world. Well, those famed words had a ripple effect a few centuries later. Nathan Kottkamp founded a healthcare movement on April 16th — the day after taxes are due — called National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD). On NHDD, 50 states join forces with a common goal: to motivate and inspire people to complete their Advance Directive. 271,804. That’s roughly how many people are in Santa Cruz County, according to the most recent census data available. You are one among thousands in our community, but there is only one you and your healthcare preferences may be unique too. It’s important, your wishes are important, and the truth is, it’s always too early until it’s too late. That is our national theme this year.
Before joining us at Hospice of Santa Cruz County, Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner Michelle Zirkle-Yoshida worked in family medicine for 10 years. She recalls trying to squeeze in a conversation about Advance Directives with her patients in 10-minute visits. It was not ideal. Often, patients can find the paperwork alone daunting. “It can be done that way, but it’s very rushed,” she says. “This is not something that should be done in a rushed manner. It’s something that takes a lot of discussion about what the future looks like.” We sat down with Michelle and her colleague Katy Gaty-Delia, a Social Worker in our Palliative Care Pilot and Transitions Program, to discuss Advance Directives from the experts’ perspective. HSCC: Do you have words of encouragement for anyone who is not sure if they should complete their Advance Directive? Katy: Six years ago, my partner and I were hit by a
For Assemblymember Mark Stone, pursuing his own Advance Directive was about more than pragmatism: he was also thinking about the wellbeing of his wife. In the event that he could not speak to his own medical choices, he wanted to spare her from any further burden. “An Advance Directive gives each of us control over what happens,” he told us. “Part of it is making it easier on each other. If one of us is incapacitated, then I’m happier knowing that I’m going to make my wife’s role a little bit easier. She doesn’t have to second guess or worry about what I would want.” It is a thoughtful and personal decision that more people are making. Advance healthcare planning has surged since Congress passed the Patient Self-Determination Act in 1990. For many choosing an Advance Directive is more than representing your own wishes; it is a thoughtful act, a
Completing an Advance Healthcare Directive doesn’t take much effort but many people have excuses for not completing or updating theirs. Do any of these reasons sound familiar? 1. My pen ran out of ink2. I plan to live a long time3. My relatives will figure it all out4. I’m too busy5. I don’t like talking about this subject or even thinking about it If you haven’t completed a directive, you’re not alone. According to a study conducted in late 2011 by the California Healthcare Foundation, while 82% of Californians say it’s important to have end of life care wishes in writing, only 23% say they have done so. An Advance Healthcare Directive is a very simple form that can be completed quickly and it gives you a chance to make your wishes known. This way your loved ones don’t have guess about how to handle tough decisions related to your