Members of the island group A Vashon Conversation for the Living About Dying will host a presentation this Sunday to help islanders better understand a wide range of advanced medical interventions, their benefits and drawbacks.
Vashon registered nurse Kimberly Benner will lead the talk, which was created in Bellingham. The presentation has been given to a variety of audiences to help people understand the array of possible medical interventions — and assist them in making informed decisions. The presentation will include a PowerPoint talk as well as time to see medical equipment Benner will bring along, including an endotracheal tube used for intubation, the suction tube used with it and a self-inflating bag for manual resuscitation. Additionally, she will bring in important medical forms, including the POLST (Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form and advance directives.
Benner has experience in critical care, long-term care and hospice nursing. She and the event organizers say their goal is to provide people with important information they might not otherwise be able to obtain to help them make the best decisions possible regarding end-of-life choices.
“I cannot tell a person what to decide, but in getting this information, they can make their own decisions how they want to fill out those forms,” she said. “To the degree that it helps people make a more informed decision, that is a good thing.”
The presentation will include a range of topics, including the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest, and the survival rates associated with each, as well as several interventions, including CPR, dialysis, mechanical ventilation and palliative and comfort care.
“I will try to help people understand what those things mean if they are in the hospital,” she said, noting she will talk about the pros and cons of each.
Benner said the presentation, which will include time for questions, is intended for people of all ages. She added that people 18 and over should complete advance directives, and individuals with a serious condition should complete a POLST form.
Those who attend will have the opportunity to fill out their advance directives at the event, according to Sally Carlson, one of the organizers. Community volunteers will be available at the event and by appointment to help with that process, she added.
After this presentation, the organizers hope to offer the same presentation again at least once a year to help keep up with new medical interventions.
A Vashon Conversation for the Living About Dying has been in existence for three years. Its members have organized a variety of death-related events, with the goal of getting people to plan ahead.
“The whole point of all of the work we are doing is to encourage people and raise consciousness about advance directives and making their wishes known in the event of an accident, sudden death or incapacitation so that friends and families are not sitting around saying, “‘What did this person want?’” said Carlson.
She added that western culture does not support conversations about death, but she and others in the group are working to change that.
“We are all going to die,” Carlson said. “It is a part of life. Fill out your advance directives. Please make your wished known. We cannot promote that thought enough.”
The Realities of Advanced Medical Directives will meet from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, June 9, at the Land Trust Building, 10014 SW Bank Road. The presentation is free, but donations will be accepted.