Leading By Example: Senior Care Conversations that Matter

How do great movements start? With someone taking the first step. And that’s exactly what Shelby Andress and her neighbor Sue Larson did at Parkshore Senior Campus in St. Louis Park, Minnesota for seniors and their families everywhere.

Inspired by seeing a presentation by Dr. Atul Gawande, surgeon, writer, and best-selling author of Being Mortal, Sue Larson connected with Shelby and a few other Parkshore residents to launch a guiding group to help neighbors have discussions about their health care wishes including how do they want to live until they die, what matters most to them, and how can they be sure their wishes are carried out.

Their efforts have taken root, spurring conversations throughout the campus and beyond. The Star Tribune wrote a feature story about them last weekend chronicling how their advance care planning efforts have helped residents, staff members, and families gain confidence to talk more openly about their wishes.

All of us at Lifesprk applaud their efforts.

The secret to living a sparked life is discovering your priorities and then creating a path to achieve them, so you can live the healthiest, most independent life possible with purpose and passion. And a key element in all of that is having conversations about what matters most to you, especially at end of life, but not only then.

Here are a few tips to help you follow their example:

  • Check out the book Being Mortal by Atul Gawande – Read Dr. Gawande’s thoughtful, poignant story of being an adult child of older parents who start to face health issues and how those experiences influence his perspective and actions as a physician. It will change how you see the world. It will raise questions and provoke your thinking. But most importantly, we hope it spurs conversations among you and your loved ones.
  • Have a conversation – Follow Shelby’s and Sue’s example and hold a conversation. You do not have to be at end of life to talk about your wishes. In fact, it is better you don’t wait until a crisis to share what’s important to you. And if you have older loved ones, you want to be sure to ask about their wishes. One friend of mine holds these conversations every Thanksgiving as a game so the entire family is updated on each other’s wishes.
  • Get a copy of Honoring Choices Minnesota – Visit http://www.honoringchoices.org/ to get a copy of the Minnesota Health Care Directives form – there is a short form and a longer form with more questions to help guide your decision-making. If you or a loved one live in another state, be sure to find out whether the Minnesota form is recognized there, or get a copy of that state’s form.
  • Get help completing your directive – Call Lifesprk Navigation and we can help you connect with advanced care planning services to help you discuss and complete your health care directive. If you are already involved in Lifesprk services or another health care service, check with them about the resources they offer to assist you.
  • Share your wishes with your loved ones and physicians – Once you’ve completed your wishes, share them with your family, your physicians and others to ensure everyone knows and has access to your decisions should a situation arise where you are unable to speak for yourself. Make extra copies to keep in your purse, backpack, briefcase, and luggage so you always have a copy handy. This is not a document you want to lock away and forget.
  • Hold a book club meeting – Follow the lead of Sue and Shelby and hold a book club meeting on Being Mortal. Better yet, make it a neighborhood event and invite others to discuss how to have these conversations.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Far from being morose and depressing, these conversations can be fun, engaging, and inspiring as you all share what matters most to you and your wishes for your life.

Have other ideas on how to spur these conversations? Share them so others can benefit. Or contact our free Lifesprk Navigation service to get more advance planning resources: 952-345-0919.

Converse on!