Since 1980, Center for Hospice Care has played an integral role in helping patients and their loved ones experience the best possible quality of life, even as they face end of life. Hospice Foundation supports this mission with programs, education, and events for the community. Cyndy Searfoss, Director of Education and Collaborative Partnerships at Hospice Foundation, works to help normalize conversations about death and dying, and get people comfortable about creating advance directives for healthcare.
While it can be a scary thought, having these conversations now, before end-of-life care is needed, can put both you and your loved ones at ease.
“Should you not be able to speak for yourself, what would you want your designated voice to do?” Searfoss said. “What we’re trying to do with those types of conversations is make them as normal and non-threatening as possible, and we do that through two different events.”
Hospice Foundation offers creative events to stimulate comfortable conversation around these topics. One event is Death by Chocolate, a trivia event that includes a chocolate tasting. Delicious handcrafted chocolates and sometimes desserts are brought in for attendees to enjoy.
“The idea is to give somebody a sweet taste in their mouth as we’re starting to work through the kinds of things you need to think about when you have a conversation about end of life,” Searfoss said. “We encourage people to come with their spouse or their parents, somebody they would be having this conversation with because the event serves as an ice breaker, and it will get the conversation started.”
The other event is Cupcakes to Die For, which is geared toward professionals in the community who work with people who are transitioning into their senior years. The event can be particularly helpful for professionals such as funeral directors or planners who are working with people to pre-plan their funerals.
“Again, the whole idea is normalizing the conversations, and in this case, helping those in an advisory position initiate those conversations,” Searfoss said. “We do this event more in a bingo format as opposed to trivia.”
Hospice Foundation conducts the events at extended care facilities, libraries, book clubs, or other convenient community locations, and is willing to travel to surrounding communities.
“We know from the hospice standpoint that the earlier you have these conversations the less stressful it is for everybody involved in that care,” Searfoss said, adding that people always feel better and more at ease after the events.
“Typically after about the first 10 minutes, everybody has loosened up, they’re talking and starting to realize it’s not as frightening as they thought it might be, and that everyone really has the same type of questions and concerns,” she said.
Searfoss decided that she wanted work in this field after seeing people struggle with the topic, and going through her own difficult personal experience with a loved one.
“My father was an Alzheimer’s patient, and he couldn’t communicate clearly,” Searfoss said. “This wasn’t an easy topic for him to work through, and if I could help save other families from those difficult situations, it felt like the right thing to do.”
Searfoss’ main words of wisdom: we’re all going to die one day, and if you just give some thought to this before it’s needed, it will relieve so much stress on you and your loved ones. If you want to do something for your family, plan ahead.
For more information, go to Educate4EndofLife.org