Workshop features planning for end of life

Workshop features planning for end of life
April 23
00:00 2015

Volunteer lawyers from the NC Bar Association helped attendees plan for end of life care at a workshop sponsored by Rowan Hospice & Palliative Care on Friday, April 17 at St. Peter’s Church & World Outreach Center.

The workshop was part of the “Got Plans?” initiative, a partnership between Rowan Hospice, Novant Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health, which regularly holds workshops in the 13-county region that Rowan Hospice serves. This workshop took place a day after Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16.

After an opening presentation, attendees got to consult with volunteer lawyers and have Hospice clinicians answer questions about what end of life care is like, helping them come up with a Health Care Power of Attorney, which designates a health agent to speak for you if you are unable to communicate and a Living Will, which describes your preferences on life prolonging treatment.

Many St. Peter’s members were among the attendees, including Audrey and DeVante Johnson. The couple already has a Living Will and wanted a Health Care Power of Attorney. Audrey Johnson said as the parents of three children, they felt it was an important issue for them to deal with.

“You just have a responsibility and you don’t want to put an unnecessary stress on your spouse or other family members to make decisions on your behalf when you can kind of plan that out in advance, and that makes it easier for your loved ones  should there ever be an accident or something occur and those decisions have to be made,” she said.

Hospices have long advocated for people to make advance directives for end of life care.  Rowan Hospice has already addressed the congregation at St. Peter’s on the subject and goes to many places around the community to give presentations and hold workshops.

“As much as possible we want people to be able to die on their own terms,” said Ann Gauthreaux, Hospice regional director of public relations.

She said death rarely happens quickly and quietly. It usually requires medical care and sometimes difficult decisions. Currently there are 400 people under Rowan Hospice’s care. Those with six months or less to live qualify for hospice care, the vast majority of which takes place outside of a hospice facility, such as in the patient’s homes or long-term care facility. She said the care is holistic for the patient and family, and is intended to help them live their last days as fully and comfortably as possible.  Attorney Melissa Phipps said she’s seen firsthand how not having advance directives can be difficult on families.

“I’ve worked for almost 17 years as an attorney working for a health care system in-house and I’ve seen what happens when these conversations don’t happen – the conflicts that families have because one person’s way of loving momma best is to do everything, another persons way of loving momma best is to let momma die, let momma have a death with dignity,” said Phipps, Novant Health’s VP of Patients Services and chair of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Health Law Council End of Life Subcommittee.

She said the N.C. Bar association also will be holding sessions across the state on advance directives. She said it’s important to make advance directives before serious illness or injury happens. She said that state law puts extra burdens on advance directives, requiring both a notary and two qualified witnesses who aren’t family members or healthcare workers, making it sometimes challenging to do in a hospital setting even when the patient can communicate. A state House of Representatives bill (HB 146), which had Forsyth County Reps. Donny Lambeth and Debra Conrad among its sponsors, would’ve reduced the requirements to either a notary or two witnesses was voted down in April.

“It’s more about empowerment and choice than it is about death,” said Phipps.

For more information about advance directives and a schedule of “Got Plans?” workshops,  visit

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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