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Gilchrist Ambassadors Educate People about Death, Dying and Planning for the End of Life

July 30, 2022, Caregiving, Counseling & Support, Elder Medical Care, Gilchrist, Grief, Hospice, Social Work

Gilchrist Ambassadors Educate People about Death, Dying and Planning for the End of Life

This blog was written and contributed by Myra Katz

I’m a Gilchrist Ambassador, and I am so honored and privileged to be a part of this incredible group of people who educate and spread the word about hospice and other end-of-life topics.

What Is an Ambassador?

An ambassador is a volunteer for Gilchrist who talks to audiences at community centers, senior centers, and other local organizations about what is arguably one of the most important conversations a person can have.

Why Plan for the End of Life?

Gilchrist ambassadors talk about serious illness, hospice and death. We also discuss advance care planning, healthcare decision making and why these things are so important. Many people prefer to avoid these topics and wonder why planning for the end of life is necessary. The answer is this: We are all born, and we are all going to die, so let’s make the experience as positive, easy and meaningful as possible.

When a woman is pregnant, there is so much planning—choosing how and where to deliver, a pediatrician, furniture, baby paraphernalia, daycare and so on. We have conversations about it all the time! But do we discuss death? Rarely. It makes us uncomfortable, or it makes our families uncomfortable.

Palliative Care

Another common topic is the difference between palliative care and hospice. Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. It can be provided at any age and any stage of serious illness— and can be used along with curative treatment. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and family.  Hospice care is for people who have a terminal illness with less than six months to live and whose goals are focused on comfort rather than a cure. Hospice care allows people to live their final days, weeks and months to the fullest and spend precious time with family and friends.

Advance Care Planning

Educating the public about advance care planning is also a big part of our work. We explain advance directives, which document your wishes for medical treatment if you become ill and can’t make decisions for yourself. Ambassadors help people understand the Maryland MOLST form (Maryland Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment), which allows you to state your preference for medical orders such as CPR and comfort care. We also discuss “Five Wishes,” a packet that you fill out with your loved one that encourages you to have a conversation about what you want as you reach the end of your life—such as whether you want to be at home and who you want with you. It also encourages conversations about the oft-forbidden topic, death.

Why Volunteer to Talk About Dying?

So, why do we volunteer our time to discuss dying, a topic shunned by so many? Because we believe in having a “good death” and helping families prepare for the inevitable. We know that talking about dying makes it easier for families (not that it is ever easy), and we are passionate about helping others. We often come to our path as Ambassadors through our own personal experiences with the death of a family member or friend. We believe we need to be as open, forthright and comfortable with this process as we are with birth.

Request a Speaker

We have a large group of dedicated volunteers and will be happy to set up times to talk with organizations, church groups, synagogues, senior centers or other groups, either in person or via Zoom.

Myra Katz – Gilchrist Ambassador

If you would like to request an Ambassador speaker for your organization, please contact Ed Nolley at enolly@gilchristcares.org.

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