The Tablet — Having a conversation about end-of-life care is awkward and difficult, but it can help in making decisions about what matters most when the time comes.
That was the focus of “Journey to Healing: End of Life Conversations and the Catholic Perspective,” a free conference hosted by Catholic Charities Bereavement Services at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, last Saturday, Nov. 7.
Now in its fourth year, the annual session offers information and resources on topics surrounding death and grief. This year, it was co-sponsored by Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ) and the diocesan Catholic Cemeteries.
“This topic isn’t easy so you’re very brave to come out to open your heart and mind,” April Boone, bereavement services coordinator at CCBQ, told the nearly 140 people present. Many attendees were professional caregivers and members of bereavement support groups in diocesan parishes.
“We want to help people start communicating when they’re not in crisis,” Boone said.
One way is through The Conversation Project, a public engagement campaign dedicated to ensuring that everyone’s wishes for end-of-life care are expressed and respected.
Opening the Dialogue
Each participant received a conversation starter kit to help break the ice when approaching a discussion about end-of-life care as well as questions to spur further dialogue about advance care planning, healthcare proxies and living wills.
Rev. Rosemary Lloyd, an adviser to the project, asked attendees to practice having an exchange about their final wishes with fellow participants in small groups.
“I am hoping we can spread the conversation more, especially in congregations, which are safe, supportive environments for having these kinds of conversations,” said the Rev. Lloyd.
Father Nicanor Austriaco, O.P., a bioethicist and associate professor at Providence College, R.I., reminded those in attendance that for Catholics, the conversation needs to be not only about what a person would consider a good death, but also a holy death.
Participants viewed “Now and at the Hour of Our Death,” a New York State Catholic Conference video that features Father Austriaco speaking about end-of-life treatment decisions with dying persons and their families.
He addressed the most common fears associated with dying – pain, suffering and abandonment – and offered assurances about moral judgments regarding pain management, ordinary versus extraordinary treatments and benefits versus burdens.
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