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Don’t wait to talk about end-of-life care

Unfortunately, the following situation is one that’s far too common and happens every day in Wyoming and all across the country. A family is gathered by the bedside of a loved one who’s been seriously ill, and now is likely near the end of life. Each family member has a different idea of what should be done and what their loved one would have wanted.

Unfortunately, throughout the course of the illness, the family never discussed what the care priorities should be in the final months and weeks of life. When these important decisions go unaddressed, it can leave a dark shadow over the death of a loved one that can linger a long time in the memory of family and friends. No one wants to think they might have done more after a person is already gone.

“It’s important that you don’t wait until you’re in the midst of a healthcare crisis,” said Marilyn Connor, director of Central Wyoming Hospice & Transitions. “It can make an already stressful experience even more trying on both the patient and their family.

“And often when the time comes, the patient isn’t able to speak for him- or herself,” Connor said. “That’s why it’s so important to have the conversation early, before it’s too late.”

Central Wyoming Hospice & Transitions is Casper’s only non-profit hospice facility. It serves patients at the end of life, with both inpatient and outpatient care services. When a family is coping with a serious illness and a cure is no longer possible, Central Wyoming Hospice & Transitions provides the type of care most people say they want at the end of life: comfort and dignity. Considered to be the model for high-quality, compassionate care for people with a life-limiting illness, hospice care includes expert medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support. An interdisciplinary team of professionals and trained volunteers provide care. And the wishes of the patient and family are always at the center of care.

Hospice also provides bereavement services to anyone in the community who needs it, regardless of whether their loved one died in hospice services. “We’re here for patients and their family before, during and after the dying process,” Connor said.

Central Wyoming Hospice & Transitions can help you start your end-of-life care conversation. Their new website (www.cwhp.org) has resources for how to start the conversation, how to create a living will, and how to plan for the cost of end-of-life care.

Connor offered some final advice. “One of the best ways to make sure you and your loved ones benefit fully from hospice and palliative care is to talk about it before it becomes an issue.”

Central Wyoming Hospice & Transitions is a non-profit organization. Through the gracious financial support of the community, they never turn away a patient for their inability to pay.

For more information about hospice and how to start the conversation, call 577-4832 or go to www.cwhp.org.