Category Archives: End-of-life issues

Friday Wrap-Up, March 9, 2018 | a message from the Secretary of Aging

Each week the Office of the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging releases a Friday newsletter with information relevant to activities, issues and events for older Pennsylvanians and persons with disabilities across the Commonwealth. Click here download the newsletter as a .pdf file.

“Your Top 10 Objects Your Kids Don’t Want” – next avenue


“Your house, and what it contains, is a minefield in the eyes of your grown children. They can see from your example that collections of stuff are a curse; such objects are superfluous to a life well lived. They want a clean, clear field in which to live their lives. Your grown children will not agree to be the recipients of your downsizing if it means their upsizing.

“In the following list of the Top Ten Objects Your Kids Do Not Want — inspired by conversations (or lack thereof) about my keepsakes with my 30-year-old son, Lock, and his wife, as well as by similar conversations I’ve had with hundreds of boomer clients and their millennial heirs — I will help you find a remedy for dealing with each:”

Click here to see the top 10 list and what you might consider doing to help your kids.

” Treatment Overkill | Never Too Late To Operate? Surgery Near End Of Life Is Common, Costly” – California Healthline

Nearly 1 in 3 Medicare patients undergo an operation in their final year of life.

maxine-stanich-2“Maxine Stanich, at age 87, had signed a ‘do not resuscitate’ directive, ordering doctors to not revive her should her heart stop, but doctors gave her a defibrillator anyway. (Photo courtesy of Susan Giaquinto)”

by Liz Szabo

“At 87, Maxine Stanich cared more about improving the quality of her life than prolonging it.

“She suffered from a long list of health problems, including heart failure and chronic lung disease that could leave her gasping for breath.

“When her time came, she wanted to die a natural death, Stanich told her daughter, and signed a ‘do not resuscitate’ directive, or DNR, ordering doctors not to revive her should her heart stop.

“Yet a trip to a San Francisco emergency room for shortness of breath in 2008 led Stanich to get a defibrillator implanted in her chest — a medical device to keep her alive by delivering a powerful shock. At the time, Stanich didn’t fully grasp what she had agreed to, even though she signed a document granting permission for the procedure, said her daughter, Susan Giaquinto.”

Continue reading this article at California Healthline, click here.


This Valentine’s Day, pop the question to the one you love

pop the question

This Valentine’s Day, give the ones you love a gift that matters. One community member is handing out our starter kit as valentines! Below are some popular resources that you can share to show the ones you love that talking matters when it comes to end-of-life care.
  • Pop the question to the one you love… video
  • Even when people express their end-of-life care wishes, honoring their choices can be challenging or impractical. Dr. Karen Boudreau’s family knows this from experience. She wrote this letter to her loved ones to offer guidance in case they ever need to make difficult decisions at the end of her life.
  • Consider writing a lasting letter to your loved one, you can learn more on our latest blog post

“When death is imminent, end-of-life care decisions sometimes go out the window” – STATnews

Woman supporting mother with cancer

by Jay Baruch

Two medics roll Mrs. M into the emergency department. Sweat drips from her forehead. Her chest heaves in and out as she tries to suck every last oxygen molecule from inside the oxygen mask. I introduce myself and she opens her eyes but her glassy stare lands beyond me. “She has metastatic breast cancer,” says one of the medics. ‘She’s in hospice. But her son wants everything done.’

“‘Doing everything isn’t a plan that’s compatible with hospice,’ I mutter.

“‘We didn’t know what to do,’ says the medic, shaking his head. ‘She wasn’t this bad when we arrived at her home. She was working to breathe, but not like this.’”

Read this STAT article in its entirety, click here.

“End-of-Life Care Legislation Clears Key Committee Vote | POLST Legislation Would Provide Consistency and Clarity for End-of-Life Care”

Harrisburg, Pa. (December 12)—The Pennsylvania hospital community is praising the State Senate Health and Human Services Committee for its unanimous passage of legislation to help patients and their families communicate their end-of-life care wishes. Senate Bill 623, legislation sponsored by State Senator Gene Yaw (R–Lycoming), would establish the Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program.

POLST is a voluntary program designed to work in tandem with advanced directives, helping patients and their families plan and communicate their wishes, so that they can receive the right care for them, in the right place, and at the right time.

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) and its member hospitals and health systems, along with the Pennsylvania Medical Society, and other health care advocates, have been vocal supporters of POLST legislation.

“End-of-life health care is one of the most difficult topics to discuss with family and friends, but it is necessary in order to carry out the wishes of loved ones. I know from my own personal experience just how important a program like POLST can be in helping patients and families make sure that their medical wishes are honored,” said Andy Carter, HAP president and CEO.

Senate Bill 623 would codify POLST, providing a consistent and clear form that puts patients and families in charge of their end-of-life care. POLST provides an opportunity for patients and families to provide directions for the use of medical interventions, feeding methods, transportation, administration of medication, and resuscitation. The bill would ensure that the decision to complete a POLST form is voluntary and done at the discretion of each patient and his or her family. These orders would apply across all health care settings.

“Pennsylvania hospitals are proud to have closely worked with a diverse group of physicians, nurses, patient advocates, home health professionals, nursing homes, and faith-based community members to assist with developing this common-sense legislation,” Carter continued. “We applaud the committee’s vote on this bill and urge the Senate and House to follow suit, and Governor Wolf to sign it.”

Companion legislation, House Bill 1196, sponsored by Representative Bryan Cutler (R–Lancaster), awaits consideration by the House Health Committee.

SOURCE: news release

ABOUT HAP:  HAP is a statewide membership services organization that advocates for nearly 240 Pennsylvania acute and specialty care, primary care, subacute care, long-term care, home health, and hospice providers, as well as the patients and communities they serve. Additional information about HAP is available online at

This recent HAP Blog article provides additional information about POLST.

“Facing Down the Biggest Fear of All | 5 ways to conquer your fear of death and age courageously” – next avenue

facing downCredit: Adobe Stock

(Editor’s note: This essay is part of a series from author and speaker Ken Druck, based on work in his book Courageous Aging, which is about how all people can make peace with, and find joy in, every stage of life.)

“Our fear of death begins when we’re kids. Perhaps we had to face the mystifying idea of impermanence when a beloved pet, parent or grandparent died. The stark reality that this loved one was really gone — and gone forever, was both devastating and terrifying. From early childhood, when we’re introduced to the concept of “futureless-ness” — that is, old age and eventually death, there are few things as difficult for us to deal with. Facing down the fear of dying requires great strength, humility and spiritual fortitude. But, as you will see, it’s worth the effort.

“Summoning the courage to quell our fears and come to terms with our mortality may be one of the most challenging things we ever do — but it may be one of the best things we can do. Freeing up the space in our minds and hearts where fear has resided and replacing it with newfound peace, courage and understanding is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.

“5 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Death”

To see the five ways and read this article in its entirety, click here.


“How To Plan A Relaxed Family Conversation About Death” – The Wisdom Daily

Last night there was a Death Cafe at Tellus 360; topics like this came up, because what’s written in this article is a kind of “family death cafe.”

“As the youngest in my family, it’s a reasonable assumption that I’ll be the last one to go. The final go. Yes, I’m talking about death.

“It’s not something anyone in my family ever really discussed. We talk about issues: faith, relationships, dreams and goals, worries and fears. But the biggest fear of all — our own mortality — never seemed to come up.

Talk by breakfast

“That started changing when my parents turned 60. They suddenly began dropping ‘when we’re gone’ into conversations. They asked my sister and I about items we’d like bequeathed to us. It felt weird. I wanted to say, ‘I don’t care about your stuff, Mom; I care about you.’ But I shied away from delving into an unwieldy, uncomfortable topic.

“At first. As I thought about it more, I realized this is a big deal. Our existence is because there is a period at the end of it. Those two bookends of birth and death define our life on earth. We hate talking about death, but it matters — a lot.

Continue reading this article in its entirety at The Wisdom Daily Website.

“What is palliative care? A patient’s journey through the system” – The Conversation

This is the first article in our series on demystifying palliative care, where experts explain the process of end-of-life care in Australia.” [NOTE: While the article is about end-of-life care in Australia, it is relevant here, too.]


“A diagnosis of a serious illness has a multitude of consequences. There may be significant symptoms related to the disease such as pain, breathing difficulties, nausea, fatigue and weakness.

“Such illnesses often limit a person’s ability to do the shopping and chores, attend the many medical appointments required, and can potentially lead to social isolation.

“What is palliative care?

“Rebecca lived with her husband, Rob, and six-year-old son, Jack. She was 34 when she met the palliative care doctor, after being diagnosed with a particularly aggressive lung cancer. She had undergone extensive surgery and was due to have radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She was struggling with some ongoing pain after her operation.

“Her cancer doctor suggested she see the palliative care team to help manage her pain so she could cope better with the next steps of her cancer treatment.”

Read this article at The Conversation in its entirety, click here.


“Cashing in on the donated dead | The Body Trade” – Reuters

“In the U.S. market for human bodies, almost anyone can dissect and sell the dead”

Part 1: When Americans leave their bodies to science, they are also donating to commerce: Cadavers and body parts, especially those of the poor, are sold in a thriving and largely unregulated market. Grisly abuses abound.

“LAS VEGAS – The company stacked brochures in funeral parlors around Sin City. On the cover: a couple clasping hands. Above the image, a promise: “Providing Options in Your Time of Need.”

“The company, Southern Nevada Donor Services, offered grieving families a way to eliminate expensive funeral costs: free cremation in exchange for donating a loved one’s body to “advance medical studies.”

“Outside Southern Nevada’s suburban warehouse, the circumstances were far from comforting. In the fall of 2015, neighboring tenants began complaining about a mysterious stench and bloody boxes in a Dumpster. That December, local health records show, someone contacted authorities to report odd activity in the courtyard.

“Health inspectors found a man in medical scrubs holding a garden hose. He was thawing a frozen human torso in the midday sun.”

Read this Reuters article in its entirety, click here.