Informed Choice

End Game Documentary and Discussion

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Excited to co-host and participate on the panel for the launch of the 2018-9 season of "The 100% Certainty Project. Death: Something to Talk About". Join us for a screening of the Netflix documentary, "END GAME" followed by a conversation with Palliative Care clinicians.

Our free public event at McMaster University features the brilliant documentary "End Game" from Shoshana Ungerleider, MD highlighting the essential tenets of Hospice Palliative Care. The film showcases the collaboration, compassion and communication as the heart of person and family-centred care at UCSF Medical Center with Steven Pantilat and the extraordinary interprofessional team. The film also highlights the brilliant work of Zen Hospice Project, showcasing Dr. BJ Miller and the extraordinary interprofessional team in Hospice.

Please join us for this engaging event! While the event is free, registration is required via Eventbrite via https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/end-game-documentary-and-discussion-tickets-50535681584

Almost all Canadians would benefit from palliative care. Only one in seven can actually access it at end-of-life

“The key to providing decent palliative care is a little bit of basic planning. Four conditions – cancer, cardiovascular disease, COPD (lung disease) and diabetes – account for 70 per cent of deaths.

Those chronic conditions all have fairly predictable courses of illness in the terminal phase. You don’t get diagnosed with lung cancer or heart failure one day and die the next. It’s a months-long process and providing pain relief (palliation) should be standard, and a priority.

Two in three people receive home care in their last year of life. But only one in seven receive palliative care in the home.

That’s the failure point – and that’s what we need to fix.

There needs to be a commitment – philosophical and financial – to bringing palliative care to patients when they need it and where they want it.

Not everyone can (or should) be cared for at home in their final days. It’s back-breaking, emotionally-draining work for loved ones. Yet many would do so willingly and lovingly.

But they run up against a gross number of barriers, ranging from difficultly getting home visits from physicians (who are poorly remunerated for that work in many provinces), lack of nursing support (because of caps on home care hours), and absurd rules that mean drugs taken at home are not covered by medicare.

All the problems raised by the CIHI report are easily resolved. For example, having paramedics provide palliative care can eliminate transfers to hospitals. Sending doctors and nurses to homes or nursing homes can free up hospital beds – and save money in the process. Not to mention that, at the very least, people deserve a modicum of dignity in their dying days.

The whole point of palliative care is to improve quality of life. We shouldn’t let bureaucratic and structural inadequacies undermine that necessary and noble work.“ by the brilliant André Picard via The Globe and Mail

Professional Competencies with the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University

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Thrilled to be teaching Professional Competencies with the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University.

"In Pre-Clinical studies, Professional Competencies (Pro Comp) runs in parallel to the Medical Foundations. Groups of 8-10 students work with a pair of facilitators, one MD and one a clinician from a different discipline. The groups stay together for the entirety of Pre-Clinical, meeting every Tuesday morning for 3 hours. They explore material covering seven domains: effective communication, medical decision-making, moral reasoning and ethical judgement, population health, professionalism and self-awareness and self-care, interprofessional practice and social, cultural and humanistic dimensions of health." via https://mdprogram.mcmaster.ca/mcmaster-md-program/what-is-compass2/pre-clinical/pro-comp 

A Wonderful evening at the Burlington Death Cafe!

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Thank you to all in attendance this evening at the City of Burlington, Ontario Death Cafe in support of World Hospice Palliative Care Day, The Carpenter Hospice and the Compassionate City Charter. It was indeed an uplifting evening of inspiring conversations (& lots of laughter!). Great opportunity to demystify the incredible breadth and scope of Hospice Palliative Care!

Special thanks to the staff and volunteers of Carpenter Hospice who gave of their time this evening, and to our wonderful hosts at Emma's Back Porch & Water Street Cooker!

Next Burlington Death Cafe is in April in support of Advance Care Planning Day! #talkaboutdeath

Patients feel psycho-social impact of chemo more acutely than physical side effects

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Highlighting the need for integrated Person and Family-Centred Care...

"The results show that there might be a gap between what doctors think is important or disturbing for patients, and what patients really think. Physical, psychological, social and spiritual support is needed at every stage of the disease" 

Source: Patients feel psycho-social impact of chemo more acutely than physical side effects. MedicalXpress

What can Palliative Care Do?

"When you are facing a serious illness, you need relief from symptoms. You need to better understand your condition and choices for care. You need to improve your ability to tolerate medical treatments. And, you and your family need to be able to carry on with everyday life. This is what palliative care can do." #SeriousIllness #PalliativeCare  

For more information visit Get Palliative Care

How to Die Well

"To start to find a way to experience a better end, we need to reflect on our own deaths and begin the process of accepting our mortality. This may happen through meditation, writing or conversations. Of course we should have hope if illness strikes us, but hope for perpetual life is blind. As we age or grow ill, the goal may switch from hope for longer life to hope for more attainable goals like healing relationships, living pain-free and enjoying a glass of Cabernet.

Simultaneously, we must prepare for this final stage of life. We must consider our preferences and values and shared them with our loved ones. Stephanie cared about being at home, with her family. What is most important to you? What would be most important to your loved ones? One day you might be called on to represent them. This conversation should happen repeatedly over the years, through the various stages of life and changes in health.

We must all — doctor, nurse, patient and family — also remember that these decisions require the collaboration of a whole team. The doctor is indeed the expert on the disease, but the patient is the expert on the patient. If you feel that you are not being included in decision-making for yourself or a loved one, or you don’t feel the team is communicating well, request a palliative care consultation, which brings communication expertise into the picture."

Read the full article at Time

The diagnosis of a serious Illness. Important considerations to discuss with the Healthcare Team

Starting a Conversation with Your Healthcare Team

Whether you or a loved one have been newly diagnosed with a serious illness, or have been told your disease has progressed, you will have to make decisions about treatment. You may have many thoughts and emotions at this time. This can be a time of uncertainty and it is common to feel worried. It can be helpful to ask your healthcare team questions about what to expect, how to plan and what support and resources are available to you and your family. 

It can be helpful to ask your healthcare team questions about your illness so that you can best understand your treatment options. The following is a list of questions that may help you to make informed decisions about your plan of care. Please ask these questions if they are helpful in guiding you and your family, or ask whatever questions are important to you. It can be helpful to bring your list of questions to your medical appointment and record/write down the answers. If you have the support available, you can have someone accompany you to your appointments to listen and help record the details. 

Some questions you may ask your Healthcare Team: 

• Is the condition short or long-term? Reversible or irreversible? 

• Is the Illness curable or incurable?

• What types of treatment are available to treat the illness/condition? 

• Where is this treatment offered? Hospital? Clinic? Home? 

• What is the goal of treatment (cure, manage pain/symptoms, improve function, extend life)? 

• If the goal of treatment is to extend-life, how long does the average person live while receiving this treatment? What about those who do not receive this treatment? 

• How often is this treatment successful? 

• Does having this illness/condition impact the effectiveness of treatments/
interventions one might receive in an Intensive Care Unit? 

• What are the common risks and side effects of this treatment? Are there any possible dangers connected to this treatment? 

• Where and how often will I receive this treatment? How long do you expect this treatment to continue? 

• Is there a financial cost associated with this treatment? 

• When and how will you know if these treatments are working? 

• When or why might these treatments stop? If this treatment stops, what are other treatment options? 

• How will this treatment impact my life? What are the expected physical, emotional, psychological and practical issues? 

• What type of additional support is available to me? What about my family? 

• What are the physical, emotional, psychological and practical resources that
can help? How do I/my family access them?

It is important to take time to have conversations about your treatment with your healthcare team. Please ask questions that are important to you. Honest and open communication about your healthcare is so essential. 

Death Café Burlington

In Celebration of National Advance Care Planning Day, Death Café Burlington will be held on April 12th, 2017 from 7-9pm at Saving Thyme.

Death Café is an international movement where people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. The objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’.

At Death Cafe, you can expect a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than grief support or a counselling session. It is a respectful, public event where people of all communities and belief systems are welcome to have discussions about death. Interesting conversation is guaranteed!

To register for this free event in support of the Compassionate City Charter, please visit Death Café Burlington

For more information about Death Café, please visit http://deathcafe.com/ 

When Patients Leave ‘Against Medical Advice’

"As physicians, we must explore our patients’ reasons for wanting to be discharged and have open and truthful conversations with them. We assume that keeping them in the hospital is always better for their health. But health encompasses the physical, mental and psychological.

In the end, my patient’s leaving was not about our therapeutic alliance. It was not about me at all. It was about her, the patient, as it should be."

Why Talking About Death Is the Key to the Longevity Revolution

 

"Now, in the midst of a longevity revolution with a passion to create new rituals and connections that help a community to, yes, thrive, we are recognizing that dying is also a profound and shared human experience. Its time to talk about it."

Why Talking About Death Is the Key to the Longevity Revolution by Ellen Goodman

 

The End Game: Conversations about Life and Death. A Free Public Event. Oct. 2nd 2016

Please join us as we host this free event. For many people, talking about end-of-life is uncomfortable or even taboo. But sooner or later, we all die. This is an upbeat, interactive session that provides evidence-based tools regarding advance care planning, hospice, palliative and end-of-life care. Let's talk. Do you have an End Game?

For more information or to register, please visit Eventbritehttps://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-end-game-conversations-about-life-and-death-tickets-27665945588?aff=efbevent

‘Extremis’ Trailer: Netflix Documentary Examines Realities of End-of-Life Care

"The realities of death are not easy to confront. That much is clear in the trailer Netflix just released for “Extremis,” an original documentary short exploring the harrowing decisions families must make for their loved ones in urgent end-of-life cases relying on machine-based life support.

'We’re all gonna die…and it’s good to have a little bit of a say in how,' says Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter, the palliative care physician featured in “Extremis,” as we see images of families, doctors and patients in the midst of facing death daily.

The trailer depicts the access granted to Oscar- and Emmy-winning filmmaker Dan Krauss (“The Kill Team”) into the ICU unit of an Oakland, California public hospital. Krauss attempts to intimately examine “the intersection of science, faith and humanity” by observing personal, real-time accounts of how complicated and emotionally wrought the dying process becomes when there are opportunities for choice in death.

The 24-minute film premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in April and the San Francisco International Film Festival on Saturday. “Extremis” is set to release globally on Netflix on September 13."

Source: IndieWire. September 6, 2016

"Extremis" Trailer

Starting the Conversation: Death Cafe debuts in Burlington.

Tell someone you’re headed to a Death Café and no doubt their expression morphs into something between bewilderment and abject horror.

Odd words to toss together, and the name conjures up all sorts of somber, gloomy thoughts.

But Death Cafes are not morbid, depressing places, nor are they gathering spots for zombies. ‘Patrons’ don’t dress in black or ghoulishly discuss death while sipping tea.

Death Cafes are, in fact, respectful spaces where people of all ages can congregate to chat informally, often with complete strangers, about death and dying.

And who would choose to do that?

As it turns out, quite a few people; enough so, that there was a waiting list for the first ever Burlington Death Café last week at city hall.

The “very brave souls” and “trailblazers” - as organizers called attendees - ranged in age from their 40s to 80s.

Death Cafes are based on an “international movement” that originated in the UK and they are designed to begin a conversation about an uncomfortable, often taboo, subject – death.

There is no agenda or objectives at Death Cafes,” explained Roxanne Torbiak, of The End Game, which partnered with Carpenter Hospice to present the event. (Originally scheduled for the grounds outside city hall but moved indoors because of sweltering temperatures)

“It is simply a conversation that happens over coffee, tea and cake. Interesting conversation and laughter is guaranteed,” she said.

Among participants at the local Death Café were those whose professions routinely deal with death, but there were others from all walks of life and faiths who simply wanted to share and listen, people who felt the initiative an important conduit in opening up a very important discussion in the city.

“It’s really an introduction to the community. We want to create awareness and offer safe spaces for people to come together and talk about dying and death,” said C. Elizabeth Dougherty, a hospice palliative care social worker and educator.

“We want to reach out to everyone, all ages, and normalize it for people, whether they’ve been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or whether they’re living healthy, fruitful lives.

“We want to create safe spaces for people to come together, to talk about their fears, their questions, their concerns, share their experience and really normalize this conversation.”

In their respective jobs as minister and palliative care consultant, Joel Bootsma and Villy Simonetta are all too familiar with death.

“Some people are very grounded in faith and meet it with courage, even joy; some with fear or worry,” said Bootsma, a Christian Reform Church minister, who was “interested in finding out what the community is wrestling with over this issue.”

As witness to extremes in how people deal with dying and death, Simonetta loves the idea of taking that fear out of death.

“It is part of life. It’s a beautiful experience when we’re born and as we go through the journey of life, it’s something we’re facing so let’s face it the best way we can, spiritually, (and) with love (and) compassion,” said Simonetta.

“I’ve seen some incredibly beautiful experiences where families are prepared; they’re very spiritual and it’s an intimate bonding time. Whereas some families struggle so much, they don’t want to let go and I struggle with that too because I see their struggle. You’re trying to support them in that whole process.”

In Buddhism, it’s about making death peaceful and quiet so one can let go of this world easily, commented Deborah Klassen, centre director of a Tibetan Buddhist Centre.

Participant Ann Dion was “privileged” to have been present for her husband’s, mother’s and mother-in-law’s death and

she feels strongly that the topic needs to be open and shared.

“We can’t be frightened because it’s there, it’s not going away,” said Dion. “(It’s like) If you don’t talk about it, it’s not going to happen.”

The Death Café was a natural supplement to Carpenter Hospice’s new Compassionate City Charter, said Bonnie Tompkins, Carpenter’s community health coordinator,

The hospice has based its charter on a UK model, and worked closely with the city to create “a framework of 12 social changes” to put Burlington on the path towards being a more compassionate city, said Tompkins.

“It’s all about building capacity in the community to support people because the reality is, the population is aging and the medical system can only do so much,” said Tompkins.

Many people don’t realize that healthcare professionals aren’t given training and education on dying and death and how to care beyond the medical model, or how to have those intimate, essential conversations about the psychosocial impacts of dying and death, said Dougherty.

“It’s about encouraging and empowering people to have these conversations with their families, friends and healthcare providers about advanced care planning, and their values and wishes for end of life care, said Dougherty, who co-founded The End Game, with Torbiak to provide professionally facilitated education and training sessions to normalize living and dying.

There is the demystifying piece to the movement, but the charter is also about embedding with community organizations to build bridges and links, said Tompkins.

“These conversations are so timely too because we know that only 16-30 per cent of Canadians actually have access to hospice palliative care services, so certainly funding and access is a concern,” said Dougherty.

Thankfully, she added, the quality of living and dying is on the national landscape, so it’s an especially important time to have these conversations, to raise awareness, and build a groundswell of public support.

Both Tompkins, who was sole caregiver for her terminally ill partner, and Dougherty, who has been immersed in palliative care for 17 years, said their experiences have taught them that open communication with loved ones is critical.

“Families are incredibly conflicted and very much wanting to be open and honest with each other, but the fear of not knowing what to say, or how to say it, or just the worry about the sadness. …denial is an incredible coping strategy for many people,” said Dougherty.

“The families I see that manage best certainly are those that have those open conversations, admittedly difficult conversations. It’s ok to be sad, it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to be frustrated but it’s important to share what’s on your mind,” said Dougherty.

Last week marked the first Death Café in Burlington, but it’s certainly not the last, said Dougherty.

At the launch of the Compassionate City Charter this fall, organizers hope to have two simultaneous Death Cafes on Oct. 8, which happens to be World Hospice Palliative Care Day.

“We’re just getting started; we’re starting a revolution,” smiled Dougherty.

Death Cafe. Increasing awareness of death with a view to making the most of our lives. #DeathCafe

Carpenter Hospice and The End Game are pleased to invite you to Burlington's Death Cafe!

Death Cafe is an international movement where people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. Our objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'

At Death Cafe, you can expect a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session. It is a respectful, open-air public event where people of all communities and belief systems are welcome to have discussions about death. 

Interesting conversation is guaranteed! 

Death Cafes are always offered: 
1. On a not for profit basis
2. In an accessible, respectful and confidential space
3. With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action
4. With coffee, tea and cake! 

The Death Cafe model was developed by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid, based on the ideas of Bernard Crettaz. See more at: http://www.deathcafe.com

Please RSVP by July 20th as limited seating is available. For further information please contact: 

(905) 631 9994 ext.138

Carpenter Hospice: Bonnie Tompkins commhlthcoord@thecarpenterhospice.com

The End Game: Roxanne Torbiak roxanne@theendgame.ca

Death cafes serve up life and death conversations. #DeathCafe

"Over a cup of coffee, a little cake — and sometimes beer — people meet to talk about death and fear of dying in the death cafe..."

Listen to this episode of The Current for more.

The End Game: Conversations about Life and Death #hpm #ACP

Throughout life, we celebrate milestones - weddings, births, anniversaries - but the milestone that we are most often afraid to confront is one of the most impactful - death. 

For many people, talking about end-of-life is uncomfortable or even taboo. But sooner or later, we all face death. What fears are holding us back from having essential conversations that will improve our own lives and the lives of those we care about? 

We understand that death is informed by the lived experience and want to create opportunities for the lived experience to be better informed. We have just launched a new series creating public forums to empower people to have conversations about living and dying. We want to foster opportunities for the general public, healthcare professionals, first responders, health science students, residents of long term care, financial planners, faith communities and community organizations to talk about living and dying. We strive to normalize conversations about living and dying in a non-judgemental, non-denominational, upbeat and interactive session. We aim to provide attendees the opportunity to consider their values and receive credible resources regarding advance care planning and end-of-life care.

For more details about our free event or to register please follow this link to EventBrite

#Palliative Care is not about #dying, but about quality of #living @JMyersPallCare #hpm

There are a multitude of misconceptions surrounding Palliative Care - what it is and what it isn't. Sadly, many are not open to the prospect of Palliative Care because it presented as a departure from "active care" or moreover they believe that Palliative Care is only provided at end of life. It is in fact so much more than that... I truly appreciate this article demystifying the scope and breadth of Palliative Care written by Dr. Jeff Myers, a Palliative Physician, empathic clinician, extraordinary advocate and educator...

"At a time when assisted dying dominates discussion about end-of-life care, I think it’s important to address public fears around palliative care so that people can use the information to improve their quality of life.

Palliative care is not what happens when all treatments have failed. It does not mean “giving up” or “stopping the fight.” If you are fighting cancer or Lou Gehrig’s disease, palliative care means a team of people — such as doctors, nurses, social workers and others — will help make sure you have what you need to continue fighting.

As a palliative care physician, I am deeply committed to improving end-of-life experiences for people and their families. My focus is not on the disease itself but on the impact it can have, like relieving the severity of symptoms with the overall goal of improving quality of life.

It’s my job to know what matters to you and to make sure you’re not spending time and energy on bothersome symptoms that needlessly wear you down. Pain is a good example: terrible pain from cancer can be exhausting, consume a ton of energy and is worse for the body than any medications aiming to manage the pain. There is no need for a person fighting cancer to also try fighting pain.

There is now very clear evidence that people who receive specialized palliative care actually live longer than those who do not. This is why it’s so important to understand that palliative care is not about giving up — far from it. It’s about living the very best you can for as long as you do."

Hacking the #Hospital #Death. When you Can't #Die at #Home. @TheLizArmy #ACP

“Spoiler alert: we are all going to die

One thing I have noticed as an “empowered patient” is that most people don’t talk about death and dying. We might think about it, but we don’t plan in advance or communicate what we would want if we ever were put in a position where we could not speak for ourselves. I understand. It is an uncomfortable topic.

According to a 2012 report by the California Health Care Foundation, 82% of Californian’s think it is important to put your end of life wishes in writing, yet only 23% have done so. Why is this important?

For one thing, doctors are trained to save people, and without a medical order or an advance directive, a medical team will, by default, try to save your life by all methods possible…

As a relatively healthy 36-year-old, saving my life by all methods possible actually sounds like a good idea! But if I was dying, say from an advanced brain cancer, there is no amount of CPR in the world that is going to cure me of cancer… 

The beginning of the end

…The medical team gave J medication to take away any pain he may experience. They removed his breathing tube, and unhooked all machines except for the one monitoring his heart beat. Quickly, his bed was moved to the sunny room where his friends, including myself, were waiting outside by the window.

As soon as the medical team cleared out we poured in. One person set up the speakers. Another friend was ready with the iPod. The door to the medical area was closed. The rest of us swarmed in around him: hands placed on his hands, his legs, his feet. The room was small, so some hovered around the perimeter and in the doorway to the open air…

We fell silent and the first song began…

A friend said “Orange Sky” held a lot of meaning for J. I had never heard this song, but now I will never forget it. I watched J’s heart rate decrease during the first two-thirds of the song, from the low 30s to zero. The monitor began to ding. A friend pushed a button, silencing the sounds. I held J’s feet.

We listened through the end of the song, with our faces on J’s, tears pouring out of our eyes. I was sobbing. We were devastated.

No one danced.

When the song ended there was silence.

Then the scene from a movie played out: A doctor wearing a white coat walked into the room. He donned a stethoscope and raised the end to J’s chest. His hand moved to various areas of our friend’s chest, and down and around to his stomach. He raised each of J’s eyelids to shine a flashlight into the pupils looking to see if they would constrict. The pupils did not move. The doctor looked at the clock and said, “It is 6:11. Take as long as you need.” He exited the room. End scene.

We all stood looking at J for a long time. Then the music began again… ‘We Could Be Heroes,’ by David Bowie.

The end

The best way to capture your healthcare preferences is by having a conversation with your loved ones, appointing a medical decision maker, and then documenting your preferences in an advance healthcare directive.”

When the #Patient Won’t Ever Get Better @danielalamasmd #hpm #ACP

“In the early moments of critical illness, the choices seem relatively simple, the stakes high – you live or you die. But the chronically critically ill inhabit a kind of in-between purgatory state, all uncertainty and lingering. How do we explain this to families just as they breathe a sigh of relief that their loved one hasn’t died? Should we use the words “chronic critical illness”? Would it change any decisions if we were to do so? Here, I find that I am often at a loss.

I was quiet on the other end of the phone line that night. Was my patient stable? For the moment, she was. But with each event like this one, and there would be more, my patient would move further from the hope of ever reclaiming that life she had had in the fall: living in her own home, watching movies, cooking. I felt that I could see the weeks and months spooling out, a moment of calm, a new emergency. But this wasn’t the time to tell her daughter, not on the phone, not tonight.

And so I told her the truth – one truth, at least. Her mother was critically ill, but stable for the night”.