Blog Post: Opening Conversations About End-of-life Care by Carolyn Pare

Who knew La Crosse, WI, is considered to be the “Best Place to Die in America,” where 96 percent of adults have health care directives in place? Or that 63 percent of Americans die in hospitals and another 17 percent die in institutions such as long-term care facilities, when nearly two-thirds say they would prefer to die at home? Or that fewer than 30 percent of Americans have an advance directive such as a living will?

These and many other surprising facts came to light during our latest Action Group member meeting, featuring presentations from Steve Calvin, M.D., Jennifer Lundblad, and Karen Peterson (see below).

The primary goal of the meeting was to increase awareness and understanding among employers about advance care planning and end-of-life care to enable them to support employees in dealing with these issues. We also explored the limitations of health care delivery and what really matters in end-of-life care.

Perhaps the most important message was that talking about end-of-life care needn’t be difficult, especially when conversations are started when all is well. In this recent article, “End-of-life: The Real Health Care Crisis,” the author calls for Americans to come to grips with “rampant and seemingly uncontrollable costs of sustaining life in a system which lacks any semblance of common sense.”

The Action Group has developed a simple communications toolkit for employer members, which is available on our website. Here are some highlights from the member meeting:

If you have not read the book Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gawande, I highly recommend it. He discusses how important it is to deploy modern medicine to best meet the goals and desires of patients.

Jennifer Lundblad, President and CEO, Stratis Health

Karen Peterson, Director of Program Operations, Honoring Choices Minnesota

Steve Calvin, M.D., co-chair of the Program in Human Rights and Health, University of Minnesota School of Public Health