With Genomic Insights, Soft Tissue Sarcoma Therapies are Evolving
August 23, 2016 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Building Consistency into Health Care for Patients with Cancer
August 24, 2016 – MIKE HENNESSY, SR.
Medical Illustration: Marine-Derived Cancer Treatments
August 31, 2016 – Erin Moore
Comments From Readers on CURE's Summer 2016 Issue
August 30, 2016 – COMPILED BY STAFF EDITORS
Should Immunocompromised Patients With Cancer Worry About Drinking Water?
August 30, 2016 – Roberta Codemo and Katie Kosko
End Stage: Talking About End-of-Life With Those With Cancer
August 30, 2016 – Mirchelle Louis
Rescuing the Rescuers: The Effort to Cover and Monitor 9/11 Responders for Lung Disease and Cancer
August 29, 2016 – Mark Cantrell
"Let's Win" Aims to Reduce Research Burden for Those with Pancreatic Cancer
August 29, 2016 – Beth Fand Incollingo
Oncology Groups Praise FDA Decision to Regulate E-Cigarettes
August 29, 2016 – Katie Kosko
Shannen Doherty Shares an Emotional Cancer Moment
August 26, 2016 – Beth Fand Incollingo
A Coloring Book for Getting Through Tough Times During Cancer
August 26, 2016 – Katie Kosko
Cancer Moonshot Should Make Clinical Trials a Priority
August 26, 2016 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Facing Skin Cancer Risk
August 25, 2016 – Christopher Pirschel
Training Could Make the Caregiving Experience More Manageable
August 25, 2016 – Katie Kosko and Ellie Leick
The Picture of Health: Art Exhibits in Cancer Centers Help Patients and Families Heal
August 24, 2016 – Marilyn Fenichel
A Strong Stomach: Eliminating Nausea and Vomiting for Patients With Cancer
August 23, 2016 – Dara Chadwick
Battling for Benefits: Military Veterans With Cancer Fight for Government-Funded Health Care
August 23, 2016 – Mark Cantrell
Chaos Theory: Understanding the Genetic Chaos of Soft Tissue Sarcoma
August 22, 2016 – Arlene Weintraub
Pet Project: Trained Therapy Animals Boost the Moods of Hospitalized Patients With Cancer
August 22, 2016 – Theresa Sullivan Barger
With Genomic Insights, Soft Tissue Sarcoma Therapies are Evolving
August 23, 2016 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Building Consistency into Health Care for Patients with Cancer
August 24, 2016 – MIKE HENNESSY, SR.
Medical Illustration: Marine-Derived Cancer Treatments
August 31, 2016 – Erin Moore
Comments From Readers on CURE's Summer 2016 Issue
August 30, 2016 – COMPILED BY STAFF EDITORS
Should Immunocompromised Patients With Cancer Worry About Drinking Water?
August 30, 2016 – Roberta Codemo and Katie Kosko
Currently Viewing
End Stage: Talking About End-of-Life With Those With Cancer
August 30, 2016 – Mirchelle Louis
"Let's Win" Aims to Reduce Research Burden for Those with Pancreatic Cancer
August 29, 2016 – Beth Fand Incollingo
Oncology Groups Praise FDA Decision to Regulate E-Cigarettes
August 29, 2016 – Katie Kosko
Shannen Doherty Shares an Emotional Cancer Moment
August 26, 2016 – Beth Fand Incollingo
A Coloring Book for Getting Through Tough Times During Cancer
August 26, 2016 – Katie Kosko
Cancer Moonshot Should Make Clinical Trials a Priority
August 26, 2016 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Facing Skin Cancer Risk
August 25, 2016 – Christopher Pirschel
Training Could Make the Caregiving Experience More Manageable
August 25, 2016 – Katie Kosko and Ellie Leick
The Picture of Health: Art Exhibits in Cancer Centers Help Patients and Families Heal
August 24, 2016 – Marilyn Fenichel
A Strong Stomach: Eliminating Nausea and Vomiting for Patients With Cancer
August 23, 2016 – Dara Chadwick
Battling for Benefits: Military Veterans With Cancer Fight for Government-Funded Health Care
August 23, 2016 – Mark Cantrell
Chaos Theory: Understanding the Genetic Chaos of Soft Tissue Sarcoma
August 22, 2016 – Arlene Weintraub
Pet Project: Trained Therapy Animals Boost the Moods of Hospitalized Patients With Cancer
August 22, 2016 – Theresa Sullivan Barger

End Stage: Talking About End-of-Life With Those With Cancer

 

 

 A nonprofit is partnering with performance artists to stimulate end-of-life discussions.

BY Mirchelle Louis
PUBLISHED August 30, 2016
No one likes to think about dying, so we don’t. We avoid the “elephant in the room” and talk around the topic. But what happens when, because of some life-threatening circumstance, you are forced to confront the idea of death? At Cancer Support Community North Texas (CSCNT), we see this happen far too often. Emotions run high, making conversations about death and end-of-life care daunting and overwhelming, sometimes even resulting in decisions that would not have been made if there had been some advance conversation and planning.

So what if we don’t avoid that “elephant?” What if we address it head-on, maybe even laugh about it? Maybe embrace the fact that death, like birth, is part of the natural order of things, and that we’re all going to die someday? In the hope of making the important conversation about death a little less overwhelming, and a whole lot less intimidating, CSCNT has partnered with The Final Acts Project, a community-based health education initiative that serves as a catalyst to stimulate end-of-life discussions, planning and legacy building through theater, creative arts and the humanities.

The Final Acts Project, the brainchild of Deborah Kaercher, Ph.D., an expert in public health and grassroots startups, was created to humanize the end-of-life experience. The initiative uses the performing arts and theater to ease the stress and anxiety of planning for our final days. By using laugh-out-loud, single-act performances and “bucket list” parties, Kaercher’s group encourages us to have the tough conversations we would otherwise avoid.

One performance that we just hosted in Dallas was “The Dead Giveaway,” a one-woman, audience-focused conversation that confronted the character’s impending death from cancer as she gave away her possessions to audience members. The interactive quality of this performance — which Kaercher’s group performs across the country — engaged the audience on a very personal level, encouraging empathy and self-reflection. More importantly, the talk-back following the performance addressed questions from the audience about end-of-life planning and advanced directives.

What particularly interests CSCNT about this unique way of broaching a tough subject is that it not only opens doors to better communication between spouses, families and close friends, but it can also lead to better care from medical professionals, social workers and loved ones. That is, by being better prepared, by being up front about our wishes and expectations, we can help direct the care we receive from others.

Rooted in personal experiences as well as evidence-based findings, the statistics on end-of-life care speak volumes: According to data from the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, more than one in four Medicare beneficiaries experiences an intensive care unit (ICU) stay during the last month of life. A quarter of Medicare deaths occur in the hospital, even though, in American public opinion surveys, most say they’d prefer to die at home if they were terminally ill. Medicare beneficiaries also would almost always choose to die without mechanical ventilation or medications that would make them feel worse all the time, and yet that describes the dying process for many in our nation’s critical care units.

The good news is that the times are changing. Medicare is now encouraging people to have a greater say in their desired end-of-life care. In fact, they’re now reimbursing doctors for time spent with patients having these conversations. And, organizations like ours and The Final Acts Project are collaborating to encourage people to take more control by doing advance planning that makes talking to doctors and families about end-of-life wishes easier…on everyone.

CSCNT and other cancer support organizations are already well-poised to have these conversations, with existing comprehensive systems of support in place. Now, the goal is to make it feel OK to “talk death” sooner and more comfortably with the people closest to us. So, let’s do this! Lights, camera, action…!
Mirchelle Louis, MS, LCSW, is CEO of Cancer Support Community North Texas, whose mission is to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community. Find out more at CancerSupportTexas.org.
Be the first to discuss this article on CURE's forum. >>
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.

Related Articles

1
×

Sign In

Not a member? Sign up now!
×

Sign Up

Are you a member? Please Log In