SPRING 2013 NEWSLETTER
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What About My End-of-Life Wishes if I Have Dementia?
By Sue Steele, M.F.T.
As the average age of U.S. residents increases with each year, the formerly unmentionable topic of dying is being discussed more frequently and openly, in large measure due to the work of organizations like Compassion & Choices. The United States has the largest number of centenarians of any country, currently around 72,000, and that figure is projected to double by the year 2020.
Concomitant with the increase in age is the increase in the incidence of afflictions of the dementia spectrum, which brings up the second greatest fear: of losing our mental faculties. Medical interventions have made it possible for us to live in an unconscious state for extremely extended periods of time. That is why Compassion & Choices has developed a Dementia Provision which can be added to an advance directive. The Dementia Provision advises physicians and family members of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia about her wishes to be fed or refuse feeding if she is unable to feed herself and becomes unconscious. If you add the Dementia Provision to your advance directive, talk with your loved ones and your physician so they are aware of your wishes. Please consult with our End-of-Life Consultation counselors if you have questions about completing the Dementia Provision, how to best ensure your wishes are carried out in the event of dementia, or have other questions about end-of-life planning. The End-of-Life Consultation counselors can be reached at 800.247.7421.
Essay Contest Deadline: May 15
The goals of the Matters of Life & Death Scholarship Writing Contest are to help California students develop awareness of the issues surrounding end-of-life decision-making and to financially assist college-bound scholars. The contest is open to college-bound 11th and 12th graders in California, and aims to expose students to advance directives. Writers are invited to respond to the following prompt: Why do I need an advance directive when I turn 18?
The 2013 scholarship deadline is May 15. For more information, click here.
Compassion & Choices in Your Community
Compassion & Choices Northern California recently gave presentations in Burlingame, San Francisco, Santa Rosa and Oakland, and participated in senior fairs around the Bay Area, including: Foster City, Napa, Union City, South San Francisco, San Carlos and Berkeley. Please visit our events page to stay informed about upcoming presentations and senior health fairs and our Facebook page.
Upcoming events include:
• Booth at the Senior Health and Wellness Resource Fair, May 2, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Castro Valley
• Booth at the 2013 Senior Expo, May 4, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Santa Rosa
• Booth at the Senior Showcase Information Fair, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m in Burlingame
• Booth at the Four Seasons of Health Expo, June 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Fremont
We make presentations to local community groups. If you would like to schedule a presentation with a knowledgeable representative of Compassion & Choices Northern California call 866.825.8967 or e-mail Admin@CompassionAndChoicesNCA.org.
Highlights from the Northern California Annual Meeting
On March 17, we welcomed nearly 100 people to our Compassion & Choices Northern California annual meeting in San Francisco. State Senator Mark Leno was the keynote speaker, and spoke about his personal experience with end-of-life issues and his support of choice for Californians. In 2007, he backed The California Compassionate Choices Act AB 374. This Act would have offered peace of mind to terminally ill patients by placing the power to seek a humane, peaceful death solely in their hands. Unfortunately, lawmakers declined to bring AB 374 to a vote. Senator Leno has been considering the conditions for introducing a successful bill providing increased options at the end of life. Senator Leno noted that intense preparation would be needed to introduce such a bill, including frank conversations about issues that opposition groups would raise. Asked what advice Senator Leno would give to a fellow California legislator who wished to introduce legislation to secure the means for a peaceful death for terminally ill Californians, he’d suggest they first speak with the leaders in the movement — Compassion & Choices.
Mickey MacIntyre, Chief Program Officer for Compassion & Choices, noted public sentiment overwhelmingly favors aid in dying for terminally ill patients, and that the legislatures lag behind public opinion. He said that Compassion & Choices has to win the hearts and minds of the public and the medical community to advance options for end-of-life choice in California and around the country. In California, we are assessing a variety of options available to move aid in dying and other end-of-life issues forward. MacIntyre also provided an overview of Compassion & Choices’ efforts in Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Sign Up for Action Alerts
Compassion & Choices Action Alerts makes it easy to stay current on local and national events as well as our legislative and advocacy work for end-of-life choice. Plus, with the click of a button you can participate in online activism such as contacting elected officials, signing petitions, submitting letters to newspaper editors and more. Go to CompassionAndChoices.org/what-you-can-do/sign-up-for-action-alerts to begin receiving action alerts.
Compassion & Choices Northern California Becomes a Regional Office
The board of directors of Compassion & Choices Northern California voted to dissolve the chapter on January 1, 2013, in favor of becoming a regional office of Compassion & Choices. We took this action in part to prepare for Compassion & Choices to spearhead an effort in California to assess the variety of options available to move aid in dying and other end-of-life issues forward. We plan to address unwanted medical treatment by building a strong stakeholder group, engaging local activists, expanding and strengthening public support, and potentially working with a handful of interested legislators to end this tragic, frequent abuse.
The Northern California chapter is now fully integrated into the national organization. As such, the office will have complete access to Compassion & Choices staff and resources, and will no longer have an independent fiduciary responsibility. The board became a leadership council managed by Executive Director Paula Taubman.
“The new organization will have many benefits,” says Stewart Florsheim, former co-chair of the Northern California chapter board. “We won’t have to spend our time being concerned about infrastructure anymore and will be able to focus on moving California forward toward enhancing end-of-life choice.”
The Northern California regional office is funded by Compassion & Choices. Donors may still make contributions designated specifically to Northern California. The office will be forming volunteer action teams for advocacy, media relations, outreach, and local fundraising and events. If you are interested in joining one of the teams, e-mail Admin@CompassionAndChoicesNCA.org.
Harriett Stinson: Compassion & Choices Supporter
For eleven years I have been a donor to Compassion & Choices because I personally witnessed the misery and pain caused by poor family communication at the end of life. From my background as an activist in reproductive choice, I know that the groups who want to limit choice at the beginning of life are the same well-funded and well-organized adversaries who want to limit end-of-life choice.
Why should anyone else but the patient get to control how that patient’s life ends? Across this country there are bills in many states where end-of-life issues are being battled. Those of us who value end-of-life choice and personal freedom must increase our ranks if we are to prevail. Legislators need letters, e-mails and phone calls to show support for our side of this issue. Numbers count! Increasing our base of supporters and financial resources is essential to having our voices heard. My commitment to the critical role that Compassion & Choices plays in having our voices heard is steadfast. Working together, we can assure that terminally ill individuals can achieve a peaceful death.
End-of-Life Volunteer Spotlight: Johnny Chavez, R.N.
Johnny has been associated with Compassion & Choices for the last four years as an end-of-life volunteer and as an ambassador representing us at senior health fairs around the San Francisco Bay Area. Johnny feels he has a true calling for working with people facing their end-of-life journey. He believes each person has the right to have a final journey embraced by PEACE, INTEGRITY, SELF-RESPECT and SUPPORT for the loved ones left behind. As a psychiatric ER nurse for 30 years, Johnny has seen first-hand the sad results of things left unsaid and feelings unspoken, and the prolonged and anguished grief that results. Over his many years working directly with patients and their families, Johnny has found it important to remind them, “You do not know about tomorrow; you have today; you have RIGHT NOW. Tell those you love how you feel, hold them and let them know your true feelings.”
Johnny was raised in San Bernardino, California, but as part of a military family lived in many states. He’s a single parent with a daughter, son-in-law, and three adorable grandchildren who live in San Bernardino.
Johnny is currently working in the field of thanatology, which is the study of the phenomena of death and of the psychological mechanisms for coping with dying. He is a member of the American Association of Bereavement and the Association of Death, Education and Counseling. With his passion and vast experience, Johnny’s fond hope is “to be a person to help escort those on their final journey and assure them that they are the ones IN CONTROL.”
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