Conversation Before Crisis

Conversation Before Crisis

September 20, 2017

“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” John F. Kennedy

CRISTA Senior Living and Providence Health & Services presented “Being Mortal,” the award-winning film first shown on PBS and based on the book of the same name by Atul Gawande on Thursday, September 14 in the Activity Center at Cristwood Park Independent Living. Like the book, the film seeks to spark conversations about the goals and priorities of people who are facing the last days of their lives.

Mark Longenecker, CRISTA Vice President of Senior Living, opened the event with prayer and an introduction that emphasized the importance of advance care planning and directives. Eighty-two attendees came to watch the film and to ask questions of the three-member panel afterward.

Moderator, Stephanie Mehl, from Providence Hospicce of Seattle, said “We need to talk about death and dying before we can have good end-of-life care in this country,” and that she is seeing a positive shift in our culture as Baby Boomers age and are confronted with their own mortality.

In the film, Atul Gawande explores how our healthcare system focuses on finding a cure instead of how patients’ true wishes can be honored. Doctors tend to approach diseases with a desire to fix or cure them, thereby making it hard to talk honestly about aging and dying, stages of life that cannot be fixed.

Some conversation starters for patients and families can begin with 1. What fears do you have? 2. What are your goals? 3. At what point would you like to end treatment options that might be making your quality of life worse?

Following the documentary, a three-member panel that included Dr. James Gordon, Leslie Palmer and R Eshwar, answered questions from the audience mainly about the differences between palliative care and hospice. Palliative care is multi-disciplinary care involving many health professionals and is focused on what patients and families want for enhancement and quality of life. Hospice is palliative care delivered at the end of life and is not alternative care or withdrawal of medication. It is a positive extension and the next phase of the best standard care.

Attendees were urged to have discussions with family members regarding their wishes and to put those wishes in Advance Directives before a crisis of disease or accident occurs.


Written by: Steffany Perry, Community Relations Associate