Categories: Health & Wellness

Lecture series tackles end of life care

The St. Albert and Sturgeon Primary Care Network and Sturgeon Community Foundation want to get local residents thinking and speaking about death.

The two organizations have teamed up with sponsor London Drugs to put together a speaking series all about end of life care.

Care When Cure Is No Longer An Option is meant to inform residents of their options and prepare them for the difficult conversation that comes with a terminal or chronic illness diagnosis, said organizer Johanna Buisman.

“I think people don’t realize what services are there until they’re faced with a situation in their own life,” said the PCN nurse, “when there’s a loved one who is sick in their family and all of a sudden they have to wayfind.”

The first part of the series, which took place last month, focused on what resources are available in the community and how to contact them, whether that’s palliative care or home living programs.

Buisman said it was a timely topic given Foyer Lacombe, St. Albert’s only hospice, opened its doors earlier this year and that discussions around medical aid in dying (MAID) have been making headlines across the country.

“One thing with medical aid in dying is that people are afraid that they’ll be left alone or that they’re not going to get the care that they need when the end comes, but that’s very available for people in end of life through our medical system,” she said.

The second part, scheduled for Wednesday Nov. 30 at Red Willow Place, will address some of the difficult conversations facing a patient with a terminal or chronic illness diagnosis.

Speakers will not only address how to ask doctors difficult questions about care options and prognosis, but how to make wishes, medical and otherwise – for example, where you want to spend your last Christmas – known to the care team and family members.

Participants will hear from a physician, as well as a nurse from the home living program, who will speak about family dynamics, Sturgeon Community Hospital chaplain Gary Engler, who will explore what is important in the last days and a funeral home employee, who will talk about advance planning tools.

All speakers are from the community and participants will hear personal stories and anecdotes throughout the series.

The third talk, which will take place on January 18, will tackle medical aid in dying as a care option in Alberta. Participants will hear from a lawyer, a doctor and a medical ethicist. The final talk is scheduled for March and will look at bereavement and grief. It is titled Moving Forward: Good Grief, Bad Grief.

Though the series may seem a little morbid, Buisman said it’s quite the opposite.

“It’s about living, not dying,” she said. “It’s about living the last days as best as you can.”

Part two of the series, Are You Ready? Having the Difficult Conversations, will take place Wednesday Nov. 30 at Red Willow Place from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. To register call 780-418-7361.

Michelle Ferguson: