'End of Life' program to encourage difficult, but necessary conversations

  • Northfield’s Council on Aging Director Heather Tower. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Morgan Ban-Draoi, bereavement coordinator at Hospice of Franklin County, is working with Northfield's Council on Aging Director Heather Tower to organize a new program called “End of Life Decisions; What Matters Most” to be held at the Northfield Senior Center. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE Shelby Ashline—RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

Recorder Staff
Published: 2/22/2017 11:14:47 PM

NORTHFIELD — Discussing medical care and funeral arrangements for a family member can be an emotionally difficult process, but Northfield Council on Aging Director Heather Tower is hoping to encourage discussion sooner rather than later.

Through a new program coming up in March called “End of Life Decisions; What Matters Most,” Tower hopes local residents can talk about the care they want near the end of their lives and the funeral rituals their families will need.

“In America, we’re really a death-denying culture, so it makes these discussions difficult sometimes,” said Morgan Ban-Draoi, bereavement coordinator at Hospice of Franklin County, who is helping Tower facilitate the new program.

Ban-Draoi said that having worked in hospice for 16 years, she has found that people often don’t talk about the care they want to receive near the end of their lives, their feelings on resuscitation or intubation, or who will make decisions for them if they are no longer able.

“What we’re hoping to do is meet them further upstream in the process,” Ban-Draoi said.

“Until you have to deal with it, you don’t really think about it,” Tower said, referring to various end-of-life decisions. However, without prior thought, those decisions can feel overwhelming.

“It’s too much information coming at you,” Tower said.

For Tower, a program dealing with end-of-life decisions hits close to home, having faced the death of her husband Steven just last year. However, Tower felt her long history in social work helped make the process easier, knowing what resources were available for arranging care and funeral rituals.

“I was able to navigate all the things I needed to navigate because of my professional experience,” Tower said. “I realized there are people that have to go through these things who don’t have that background, and for them, it’s a foreign language, so to speak.”

Just a few months after her husband’s death, another community member lost her husband, and Tower passed on her own knowledge. She began to consider having a program that would encourage such difficult, but necessary discussions to take place.

Though Tower and Ban-Draoi said they’re familiar with programs that teach about end-of-life decisions, the two came together last fall to create a more discussion-based program.

“End of Life Decisions; What Matters Most” will consist of three sessions on March 9, 16 and 23 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Northfield Senior Center, and will include light dinners. The program is limited to 20 participants.

Participants will all receive booklets they’ll use to write five wishes concerning what they do and don’t want to happen near the end of their lives. A $5 registration fee will cover the cost of booklets, handouts and other materials.

Tower and Ban-Draoi plan to facilitate discussion, along with a nurse or medical social worker who can share information about intubation and other medical procedures. Tower hopes the program will have an empowering effect on participants, helping them to take charge of their lives.

Those interested in participating are invited to call the Northfield Senior Center at 413-498-2186.


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