Own Your End of Life Planning

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Barbara IvankoBy Barbara Ivanko

“If you don’t talk about it, you don’t own it.”

These are the words of Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC News Medical Editor, when she addressed the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s (NHPCO) annual Management and Leadership Conference at the end of March. She spoke to hospice professionals of varying disciplines from around the country during this annual event that takes place near Washington, D.C.

Dr. Snyderman expressed her belief in the importance of advanced care planning, going onto say: “Death is a part of life. You have to talk about what you want (and end of life) while you’re in your 20s, 30s, and 40s.”

Sharing stories from her own family, Dr. Snyderman explained the illness that her father experienced years ago – and how the family came together to access quality hospice care. Her father eventually improved, but the ordeal readied her family for the dying process. Dr, Snyderman also shared the fact that her daughter, a woman in her 20s, proactively documented her end-of-life wishes with her fiancé as they planned their wedding.

Dr. Snyderman’s address energized the NHPCO conference. How wonderful to have the support of a nationally-known physician who understands the benefits of providing patients and their loved ones with the best quality of life.

Three members of my staff from Family Hospice and Palliative Care attended this year’s conference. Not only did it offer educational sessions that help us improve the way we deliver care, but my Family Hospice team also took advantage of the opportunity to network, share ideas and discuss best practices with counterparts from around the nation.

I’m proud to report that two of our Family Hospice team members also served as presenters at this year’s event. As a leading hospice provider, our organization cherishes the opportunity to share our expertise.

Family Hospice chief financial officer Franco Insana helped lead a discussion on hospice length of service. This session provided attendees with an understanding of trends and analysis. A healthy discussion took placed during this session, with Franco answering many relevant questions.

The only way to “own” your end-of-life experience is to talk about it.
The only way to “own” your end-of-life experience is to talk about it.

Our Family Hospice manager of marketing and public relations, Greg Jena, was part of a panel that presented successful PR and media relations techniques. Greg and his counterparts from hospices in Delaware and Indiana offered a step-by-step guide to helping hospices tell their stories. One attendee at this session even posted on Twitter that she was gaining a lot of useful information.

Just as our Family Hospice clinical staff utilizes its expertise to keep our patients comfortable, we are happy about the chance for our “behind-the-scenes” staff to share its knowledge as well.  Our mission is to provide quality, compassionate care – but beyond that Family Hospice embraces the opportunity to improve the world of hospice in any manner that it can.

So, as we share expertise among health care professionals – including all of you reading this column – let’s do our part to “own” end-of-life care.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman encourages us to talk about it: have the conversation and to get people thinking about putting their wishes in writing. 

I pledge to keep talking about it and to own it. Please join me.

Barbara Ivanko is President and CEO of Family Hospice and Palliative Care. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the health care and hospice and is an active member of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. She may be reached at bivanko@familyhospice.com or (412) 572-8800. Family Hospice and Palliative Care is a non-profit organization serving nine counties in Western Pennsylvania. More information at www.FamilyHospicePA.org and www.facebook.com/FamilyHospicePA.


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