Insights & News

December 2016

A 2017 Resolution - Speak(easy)

“We had this quite agonizing conversation where he said—and this totally shocked me—‘Well, if I’m able to eat chocolate ice cream and watch football on TV, then I’m willing to stay alive. I’m willing to go through a lot of pain if I have a shot at that.”
This conversation is an often quoted story from Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.  Speak(easy) Howard wants you to have a conversation with your loved one.
Speak(easy) Howard is a “community campaign that provides a simple and approachable way to start thinking about the health care you would want if you are unable to communicate these wishes to your doctors.” 
In the story above, a husband is preparing for a difficult surgery and the wife is asking what level of being alive is acceptable.  The book is about quality of life.  Doctors are extraordinary at keeping people alive, and sometimes we (doctors and loved ones) forget to ask what the patient wants.  
In 2017, Speak(easy) Howard will launch a large-scale public campaign to encourage all Howard County (Maryland) residents to take these two important steps:
1. Have the conversation.  A booklet, Your Conversation Starter Kit, is available at Speak(easy) Howard to help you have the conversation.  
2. Name your health care agent.
Your health care agent can make medical decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so yourself.  Make sure you have the conversation with you agent.  Every one of us has heard the heartbreaking sentence, “I just don’t know what he wanted.”
Speak(easy) Howard also provides a link to which stores your agent information in an electronic database.  In addition, you can record your values, treatment goals, your thoughts, and your key contact information.  
Emergency responders, doctors, nurses, and caregivers have instant access to this information and will know your wishes. And, will allow your agent can make healthcare decisions.  
From the Speak(easy) Howard website. “The Speak(easy) Howard campaign is a Howard County [Maryland] initiative that encourages residents to have a conversation about end-of-life care wishes and to name a health care agent who can communicate these wishes. The Horizon Foundation is leading the campaign along with many community partners.”
A large-scale public campaign will launch in 2017 to widely encourage all Howard County residents to take these first two important steps.”  
The Speak(easy) Howard campaign has special meaning for me.  In 2013, my mother showed me tremendous bravery and I knew her wishes. 
2017 is your year – please do three things
1. Visit Speak(easy) Howard
2. Have the conversation
3. Name your healthcare agent.  
For more on the Conversation see, The Hardest Conversation.

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