Free workshop to explore end-of-life conversations, decisions Wednesday in Port Angeles

SEQUIM — Awkward, uncomfortable and possibly a bit frightening — but the conversation is worth having.

Paul Fiorini, chaplain/bereavement coordinator at Assured Hospice of Clallam and Jefferson Counties, knows there is a disconnect between what people want to say when they or loved ones are dying and what actually happens, which is usually silence.

“It’s a basic fear about death and dying,” Fiorini said.

“Both ends of the spectrum don’t want the other person to feel uncomfortable.

“Plus there may be [a lot of] emotional content when they have that conversation.”

Fiorini and company hope to break down some of those barriers at “Choosing Quality: Caring Conversations,” a free workshop that will be hosted by Assured Hospice groups and physicians from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday in Port Angeles.

The workshop will be in the Linkletter Room at Olympic Medical Center, 939 Caroline St.

The event aims to bring together community members and experts in end-of-life situations.

Topics include:

■   How to have end-of-life conversations with your doctor and family, presented by Dr. Paul Cunningham, medical director and physician at Jamestown Family Health Clinic, and Dr. Michele Stafford Olympic Medical Center.

■   Advanced directive/living will education, presented by Cunningham and Stafford.

■   Funeral home conversations with Steve Ford of Drennan & Ford Funeral Home and Crematory.

■   The final end-of-life conversation, presented by Fiorini.

“We want to empower people to have these conversations,” Fiorini said.

Fiorini has worked with hospice organizations for almost seven years.

He said studies show patients live longer with hospice and that spouses of those receiving hospice care report lowered levels of depression.

In addition, he said, the process of going through the end of someone’s life can be relationship-building, honoring and, oddly enough, empowering.

“When people are dying, they are losing control of everything,” Fiorini said. “We like to give them a little of that power back.”

Said Brenda Francis, nurse liaison/patient care representative for the company: “We’re really big on empowering people in their choices in health care.

“They need to hear it’s OK to talk about dying.”

Services

Assured Hospice of Clallam and Jefferson Counties is part of LHC Group, a nationwide network of post-acute care partners for hospitals, physicians and families.

The business offers nursing services to manage pain and other symptoms, certified nursing assistants or bath aides for hygiene care, a social worker to help with applying for Medicare/Medicaid, veterans benefits, etc., and a chaplain for spiritual and emotional needs.

Assured Hospice also has volunteers who provide massage and music therapy. Volunteers do some light housework and help with journaling, videos or picture albums.

“That passing on is important,” Fiorini said.

Assured Hospice charges fees. Hospice is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance, the company says.

Fiorini said he’s excited to see the promotion of Honoring Choices, a program that encourages doctors to be more apt to have end-of-life conversations.

The No. 1 factor in using hospice is the doctor’s recommendation, Fiorini said.

As chaplain/bereavement coordinator at Assured Hospice, Fiorini often sees families at their seemingly lowest points.

“We deal with a lot of crisis situations,” he said. “[But] I think I’m kind of wired to be in these situations.

“We’re trying to love them within the context of our work, our calling.”

“Our focus is not about death but about the last stage of life, be it a week, a month a year,” he said.

RSVPs for Wednesday’s workshop are welcomed but not required.

For more information, call 360-582-3796.

Clallam County residents also have the option of Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County, which provides free services.

Right now, Volunteer Hospice is offering basic training in hospice volunteering through May 6, with free classes open to the public from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Fridays through May 6 at the Clallam County Public Utility facility at 100 Hooker Road, Sequim.

At various times during the year, it hosts workshops of dealing with grief and drop-in support groups in Port Angeles and Sequim. For information, call 360-452-1511.

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Michael Dashiell is an editor with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mdashiell@sequimgazette.com.

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