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Advance Care Planning Facilitator Helps People to Be Known and Understood

Published in Hospice Services, For the Health of It, Advance Care Planning Author: Kristy Willenbring, Advance Care Planning Facilitator

Soon I will be wrapping up my grant-funded position as a facilitator for Advance Care Planning. This role was funded for a one-year trial period by the Morgan Family Foundation to help patients reflect on and complete their Health Care Directives in five of CentraCare’s Family Medicine clinics. Planning for future medical care on your own can be overwhelming and sometimes scary.

I have met with individuals of all ages, including some married couples and some older adults along with their adult child. I have learned so many things from the people I have met. I have learned about families and relationships. I have learned about tragedies and triumphs in people’s lives. I have learned about faith and beliefs. I have heard of experiences surrounding death; some good and some unsatisfactory. These experiences have all affected their personal choices, but most people want a choice. Most people want peace and not conflict as their life closes. People want to be known and understood. People want to make the path smooth for those remaining. People also want to know their choices will be followed.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
~ Nelson Mandela

I have had many people ask if my role is a morbid or sad job and I will respond, “For the most part, no.” Most people are relieved to get their Advance Care Planning choices sorted out and documented because they know it is a good thing to do. The sad days I have experienced are when people say they have nobody to speak for them if they should become incapacitated. And although I try, sometimes I have limited suggestions for them. I do give individuals time which is a gift in this hurry-up world, and this time gives them a chance to reflect, have conversations with others, and choose.

Along with a sense of accomplishment that I have assisted people with difficult and confusing decisions, I have had some referrals from patients and many warm handshakes, smiles, tears, and a few hugs this past year so I know it has been a good year and worth the effort.

Editor’s Note

The ACP facilitator role will continue serving patients in some of the CentraCare Family Medicine clinics. Please contact your clinic to see if this service is available to you.

Learn more about Advance Care Planning.

Photo of Kristy Willenbring and Advance Care Planning Program Manager Lori Braegelmann taken by Isabelle at CentraCare – Sartell Clinic.