This week, the nation mourns the death of Barbara Bush, one of just two women in history to be both a First Lady and a mother to a U.S. president. Two days before she died, a family spokesman announced that Mrs. Bush would no longer accept medical treatment and had chosen the option of “comfort care.”
The former First Lady’s decision is noteworthy because it helps highlight a longstanding cultural stigma associated with palliative care, hospice, and other forms of end-of-life care and planning. The announcement came during National Healthcare Decisions Day, an event meant to engage the public on the importance of advance care planning and the role of health care providers in respecting patients’ wishes.
Bush, a longtime supporter of health care causes that included work with pediatric AIDS patients to dispel myths about how AIDS is contracted, was not reported to have an advance directive. But she was able to communicate her wishes plainly before she died. She also was fortunate to be surrounded by family, friends, and caregivers who understood and respected those wishes.
That isn’t always the case when it comes to end-of-life care, which is one of the reasons MHA is convening a free statewide forum on May 30 – Collaboration in Care Planning: Empowering Patients and Providers at All Stages and in All Settings. Its goals are to help attendees:
- Understand how to ensure that patients' wishes are respected throughout the care continuum
- Learn about community-wide partnerships that promote patient-centric advance care planning
- Find ways to expand access to advance care planning tools
Talking about end-of-life care can be uncomfortable for both patients and providers, but frank and compassionate conversations are a must, and the key to a successful advance care directive.
The forum in May is designed for clinical staff and others interested in improving how advance care planning is integrated into care delivery. I hope you’ll join us. You can register here.
P.S. – Also be sure to register for MHA’s annual meeting coming up in June. There’s a very strong group of speakers, including Dr. Atul Gawande, whose latest book, Being Mortal, examines issues surrounding late-life care.