A ‘Good’ Death

Free Jan. 31 community discussion
focuses on how to live well while dying

RANDOLPH – Few would likely pick a “bad” death. But what is a “good” death and how do you choose one?

Those are the questions regional hospice and health care experts will address at a Thursday, Jan. 31 event at Gifford Medical Center titled “What is a ‘Good’ Death?” The talk, a free community discussion open to all, is from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Randolph hospital’s Conference Center. Continue reading

‘Start The Conversation’

All ages invited to join local experts in talking about end-of-life care options, to improve quality of life now.

Start the ConversationRANDOLPH – Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire, the Vermont Ethics Network and Gifford Medical Center’s Advanced Illness Care Team are joining to create a community discussion around end-of-life care planning.

Called “Start The Conversation,” the talk will be held on Nov. 29 from 5-6:30 p.m. in Gifford’s Conference Center at the main medical center in Randolph.

“Start The Conversation” is a public education initiative of Vermont’s Visiting Nurse and home health and hospice agencies in partnership with the Vermont Ethics Network. Collaborating with medical providers like Gifford, the talk is offered around the state. A Web site, starttheconversationvt.org, also focuses on the issue of end-of-life planning.

“In life we prepare for everything: college, marriage, children and retirement. Despite the conversations we have for these important milestones, rarely do we have conversations about how we want to be cared for at the end of our lives,” explains the site.

“Talking is the single most important thing that you can do to prepare for the death of someone you love. While difficult, the end of life can be amazingly rich. Talking about this time makes a rich ending more likely. Often such conversations are avoided out of an understandable desire to spare each other’s feelings. They need not be.”

An Advance Directive is one way to get the conversation started and experts leading this Nov. 29 talk in Randolph will talk about end-of-life options, medical decision making and how to put ones wishes in writing through an Advance Directive.

“Planning for end-of-life care before it becomes a worry is as important as all the other life plans you make. Having a plan in place makes it easier for you, your doctor and your loved ones if you are unable to tell them your health care choices because of an injury or serious illness,” explains Jared King, business development manager for Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire.

“Every moment is precious – especially at the end-of-life. Starting the conversation early can ensure that your choices are heard. It also means that when time becomes short, it can be spent doing what you most enjoy and not making last-minute decisions.”

As a psychologist and member of Gifford’s inpatient care management team, Cory Gould spends much of her day talking to patients about Advance Directives. “We spend a lot of the day holding discussions with family members about how to talk about death,” Gould says. “The beauty of bringing this discussion to the forefront is to improve the quality of all of our lives.”

If end-of-life wishes are known there is more opportunity to enjoy the present and erase the worry, Gould explains. Discussing how one wants to celebrate the end can also increase understanding about what matters most to that individual in life. “Thinking about death is a way of celebrating life,” Gould says.

For Gifford and its Advanced Illness Care Team, the talk will be the first in a series on death and dying. Titled “A ‘Good’ Death,” the series will look at what is a “good” death, family dynamics when death approaches, what happens when someone dies, grief and more. The series begins with “Start The Conversation.”

“Start The Conversation” is free and open to people of all ages. Registration is not required. The Gifford Conference Center is on the first floor of the medical center and marked by a green awning from the patient parking area. For handicap access, take the elevator from the main lobby to the first floor and follow signs to the Conference Center.

To learn more about this talk or the upcoming series, call Gould at (802) 728-2608 .

 

Last Mile Ride raises $54,000

‘Great’ ride supports ‘special’ cause: the Garden Room and end-of-life care

Last Mile Ride 2012

Cyclists leave for a 38.4 mile loop to Northfield and back as part of Saturday’s Last Mile Ride at Gifford Medical Center.

RANDOLPH – With blue skis overhead and temperatures in the 70s, 225 motorcyclists, 60 runners and 20 cyclists rolled into Gifford Medical Center Saturday for the seventh annual Last Mile Ride, together raising an estimated $54,000 for end-of-life care at the non-profit Randolph hospital.

It was the hospital’s most successful ride to date, attracting more participants than ever before, offering a 5K for the first time and raising the most in the ride’s already impressive history.

The event supports end-of-life and advanced illness care for Gifford patients.

Last Mile Ride 2012

Runner and cyclist David Palmer of Randolph brought along a friend, the family dog, for Saturday’s Last Mile Ride.

Gifford provides special care in a garden-side suite, the Garden Room, for patients at the end of life and to their grieving families. The ride was created by Gifford motorcycle rider and nurse Lynda McDermott to support the Garden Room and comfort services, such as massages for pain management; family photos by a local professional; music therapy; one-time gifts for special needs, such as a handicapped ramp at home or special wish; care packages; food for families staying with their loved ones in the Garden Room; bereavement mailers; help with Advance Directives; staff training; and more.

To a mostly leather-clad crowd standing before the reflective chrome of 162 motorcycles, hospital administrator Joe Woodin offered his thanks to the participants.

Last Mile Ride 2012

Motorcyclists leave for the seventh annual Last Mile Ride on Saturday at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph. The ride supports end-of-life care.

“Thank you for coming today. This is a great event,” Woodin said. “It’s been really lovely to have so much support and people’s involvement. Over the years we’ve had a lot of people take up the cause in memory of a friend who perhaps passed away or a loved one and it’s really nice for people to say ‘The experience we went through we’d love to help those in the future.’”

Dr. Cristine Maloney, an internal medicine and palliative care physician who participated in both the 5K and cyclist portion of Saturday’s ride, shared stories of patients who have benefited from the ride funds over the last year. “None of this is possible without your time and your commitment and your fund-raising. These improvements in symptoms as well as the time and space to let families let go more comfortably are because of you.

Last Mile Ride 2012

Bunny Huntley of Bethel waves from the back of Gail Osha of Randolph Center’s bike as the duo takes off Saturday as part of Gifford Medical Center’s Last Mile Ride.

“We appreciate your commitment to providing comfort at the end of life whether at the hospital or at home or in the nursing home here.”

Many spurred by their experiences in the Garden Room, nine participants raised more than $1,000 each for the cause. The top fundraising honor and associated prize – a Porter Music Box – went to Todd Winslow and Lu Beaudry of Wilder who alone raised $5,325 in memory of Winslow’s mother Joyce, who passed away in November in the Garden Room at age 82.

“When my mom went into the Garden Room … I decided that day – and I didn’t tell anyone – that I would figure out a way to raise money for it,” said Winslow, who later used e-mail to reach out to friends, family and business contacts. He wrote about the Garden Room and asked for help raising money in his mother’s name. “And I got an unbelievable response from all of them.”

Last Mile Ride 2012

Howard Stockwell of Randolph Center waves on the back of Mike Anderson’s bike as 225 riders return from the Last Mile Ride on Saturday at Gifford Medical Center.

“The Garden Room,” said Winslow, “you don’t know what it is like until you experience it. It is the neatest thing there is. Gifford has something, or the town has something, that most towns and hospitals don’t have. It’s really special.”

Winslow set a goal to raise $2,000, met it, raised it to $3,000, met that and continued on to $4,000 and then $5,000 goals, exceeding each.

“I really think it was because of my mom,” said Winslow of how he was able to raise so much. “One guy said ‘How can you not say ‘yes?’

“It was kind of neat to do it in tribute to my mom because my mom was really a neat person. She never had an ego. She was one of those people who wanted to help everyone and listen to them. So I wanted her to be recognized at that ride.”

Thanks to her son’s efforts, she was.

Last Mile Ride 2012

Ken Perry drives and Brenda Wright waves as riders return from the Last Mile Ride on Saturday at Gifford Medical Center. Perry and Wright live in Bethel.

Linda Chugkowski and Robert Martin of Northfield earned the second place prize, raising a remarkable $3,134. Chugkowski and Martin are long-time friends who participate each year in memory of several loved ones, including Martin’s dad, Robert Martin II, and this year former Northfield Saving Bank president Les Seaver.

“It’s a great ride for a great organization. We participate to ride and remember the loved ones that we’ve lost,” said Chugkowski, who works at Northfield Savings Bank and also serves on Gifford’s Board of Trustees.

Chip and Marie Milnor, who launched their fund-raising efforts on the Tuesday before the ride, collected $2,879 in just days in honor of their friend and Braintree neighbor John Rose Sr., who was in Gifford’s Garden Room as the ride was taking place.

Last Mile Ride 2012

Volunteers Penny Maxfield and Jamie Floyd, both Gifford Medical Center employees, help man the grill at Saturday’s Last Mile Ride, which concluded with a barbecue, live music from Jeanne & the Hi-Tops, and prize awards.

“I wanted to do something for the family. What do you do? And it hit me: I’m going to do something for the Last Mile Ride,” said Chip Milnor, who set a goal of $3,000 and reached it on the Monday after the ride as money was still coming in.

“People thought the world of John,” said Milnor, who lost his friend late Sunday afternoon. “Our neighborhood is definitely not going to be the same without him.”

For Milnor, the ride was about recognizing his friend and others the Garden Room will help, and participating in a great ride.

“It’s a well put-on ride. We do a lot of rides and that one is really well organized. They do a really good job. I can’t think of anything on that ride that needs improvement. It’s getting bigger and bigger, and I hope it keeps getting bigger and bigger.

“It’s for a good cause,” said Milnor. “It’s not about the hospital. It’s about the Garden Room and what they do for the family and how they take care of people.”

Last Mile Ride 2012

Jeanne & the Hi-Tops play at Saturday’s Last Mile Ride at Gifford Medical Center.

Also supporting the event were numerous business sponsors, prize donors, volunteers and individuals lining the motorcycle route.

Led by Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak with road guard services from the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, this year’s motorcycle ride took participants on a 75-mile loop through central Vermont. Along the way, people held up signs reading “thank you” and naming loved ones lost. Some people were openly crying. Others cheered.

Riders waved and honked and later posted rave reviews on Facebook.

“Wonderful day, great ride with great people,” wrote Roxanne Benson. “Thank you to all of those who work so hard to pull this off every year. So glad $54,000 was earned for the Garden Room.”

“Thank you for a wonderful ride and a magnificent day! Already have the calendar marked for next year,” wrote Caryn Wallace from Connecticut.

“A great time this year! Next year cannot come soon enough! A big thank you for all involved with organizing and helping run LMR ’12 and for everyone who showed up to walk, run, pedal and ride,” wrote Brian Sargeant II.

Next year’s ride is slated for Aug. 17, 2013.

Photos by Janet Miller and Tammy Hooker

Connie Niland: A lady and an optimist

Niland family carrying on ‘attitude of gratitude’ by joining Last Mile Ride

Connie Niland

Connie smiles on her 94th birthday on Dec. 24, 2011.

RANDOLPH – Connie Niland was a fearless optimist.

So even when her husband died of a massive heart attack on the day of his retirement, she carried forth with his plan to move from their home in Peabody, Mass., to Vermont.
Connie and her youngest daughter Lisa (now Lisa Hill of Bethel) moved to Barnard in 1972 when Lisa was 13 and Connie was 55.

In Massachusetts, Connie had offered guided tours of the North Shore for women, but mostly stayed home with her four children and played golf. In Vermont, Connie went to work as an administrative assistant first at Dartmouth College and then Vermont Law School. She also shoveled the roof, maintained the home and took care of Lisa and the family’s horses. The older children were already out of the house.

Connie Niland

Connie, born Constance Allington, age 7 months, sits in a high chair on her family’s back lawn in Everett, Mass., on July 12, 1918.

Connie worked until age 84 and then filled in on vacations. Lisa recalls her mom’s intellectually curiosity. “She just had this wonderful curiosity about people and ideas.” Connie loved the law school students and computer technology. She learned to Skype and text her older children. “She was as fearless as that as she was with other things.”
And she was fearless about death.

Lisa calls her mom a “buddhiscopalian.” She read incessantly about spirituality and a relationship with God.

In 2002, she moved from Barnard to an apartment in Randolph on Randolph Avenue, when the home became too much to take care of alone. “She really considered that she had moved from the country to the city,” Lisa says.

And Connie embraced her new community. She became active with the Randolph Senior Citizen Center, the Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary and began volunteering at Gifford. “My mother was just so grateful for Gifford and loved that it was such an important part of the community where she had chosen to live,” Lisa says of her local hospital.

Connie Niland

This undated photo shows a younger Connie Niland.

Connie also continued to play golf into late 80s and was such an optimist that age 90 she took out a four-year lease on a car.

Eventually rheumatoid arthritis and limited mobility would cause her to stop driving, but still Connie lived well and with her constant “attitude of gratitude.”

She turned 94 on Christmas Eve last year. After a day of visiting with family and drinking a bit of champagne – one of Connie’s favorite – Lisa called to check in. “I’m just sitting here thinking about how lucky I am and how happy I am,” Connie told her youngest.

A few days after New Year’s she had a stroke.

Connie Niland

Connie married husband William Niland in Boston in 1941. He died in 1972.

On a whim, Lisa visited on New Year’s Eve day, a Saturday, with Connie’s monthly scratch tickets and her winnings from the previous month. “When I got there, she was out of it,” says Lisa, who brought her mother to the Emergency Department. She had a urinary tract infection but a CT scan revealed nothing else unusual.

Lisa stayed with Connie in Randolph over the weekend. They cooked, laughed and giggled, and had a great time. On Monday, the day after New Year’s, they enjoyed a nice lunch. After lunch, Lisa was rubbing lotion on her mom’s face and asking her a question, when Connie failed to respond. When she finally looked up, her face pointed to one side. “I literally had her face in my hands,” says Lisa, and “It was clear that she had had a stroke.” Lisa activated Connie’s Lifeline and awaited an ambulance to bring her to Gifford.

Connie Niland

Connie poses with Karen Lyford of Chelsea at the Vermont Law School, where Connie worked until age 84.

She didn’t get better.

“She clearly wasn’t progressing. It was just clear that she had a really devastating event,” says Lisa, who was faced with the decision of moving her mother to a nursing home.

That Friday, Lisa came to the hospital ready to do just that, but Connie, who “couldn’t stand” nursing homes, had made a different decision. She had stopped eating, was growing sicker and was moved to the Garden Room for end-of-life patients at Gifford.

She was there exactly one week until her death on Jan. 13 of this year. The whole family came, all four children, including two or three who stayed over every night, and almost every grandchild. The room, which includes a patient room and family room, was filled with 12 or more people at a time.

Connie Niland

Connie Niland, 1917 – 2012

“My mother was very gracious and she loved to entertain. She had a steady stream of people (visiting her in the Garden Room), and we were loud. We sat with her and we talked about great times in our family’s life and we told the funny stories that we always told when we’re together,” Lisa recalls.

The family faced no difficult choices. Connie had made her wishes clear in “the most beautifully written Advance Directive.”

They brought her quilt from home and other comfort items were provided in a kit from the hospital. The hospital fed the family during their weeklong stay. Connie had Reiki for pain management as well as music therapy from Brookfield’s Islene Runningdeer and local hospice singing group “River Bend.”

Most importantly, says Lisa, the hospital staff preserved Connie’s dignity – an important measure for the family and for Connie who was foremost always a “lady.”

“That experience of being in the Garden Room and the support that we had was such a beautiful experience. It just was incredible to us how thoughtful everyone was,” says Lisa.

The special services Connie and her family received – the family meals, Comfort Kit and music therapy – were provided thanks to funds raised at Gifford’s annual Last Mile Ride – a charity motorcycle ride this year to be held on Aug. 18.

And this year, Lisa, her brother Richard and two friends will be participating in the Last Mile Ride for the first time.

“For us, it’s knowing what we received in the Garden Room, we want to make sure we give back a little of that so another family can have an island of calm in the middle of such chaos,” Lisa says. “Until you are there you have no idea how much you need and our family was just so overwhelmed with how much (hospital staff) did for us.”

The Last Mile Ride is supports end-of-life and advanced illness care at Gifford Medical Center, including free services for patients and their families. This year’s ride is Aug. 18. The event also includes a cyclist ride and 5K. Learn more online at www.giffordmed.org or call (802) 728-2380. Participants can register up to and on the day of the event.

Health Focus: Understanding Palliative Care

‘It’s not a death sentence.’ It’s patient-centered care.

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

With three outpatient palliative care physicians, Gifford Medical Center is already offering palliative care to outpatients early in their illness. To understand the discussion, however, you must understand the meaning of palliative care.

Gifford internal medicine provider Dr. Cristine Maloney of Randolph completed a year-long palliative medicine fellowship at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. In the article below from Gifford, she explains the difference between palliative medicine and hospice medicine and why more of us may benefit from palliative care than we think.

One day last fall, David Wark of West Topsham awoke barely able to breath. “I thought I was going to die. I got up and I couldn’t catch my breath.”

Besides emergency care for a truck accident in the mid-’90s, the 58-year-old hadn’t been to a doctor in well over 20 years. But after that 2011 incident, and at the urging of his ex-wife and good friend, he called for an appointment.

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

A construction worker, Wark was helping with the remodel of Randolph’s Cumberland Farms, so he called nearby Gifford Medical Center.

He got in right away, undergoing pulmonary function testing, X-rays and blood work and then sitting down with internal medicine physician Dr. Cristine Maloney.

“‘Don’t bull#@*# me. Just tell me the truth,’” Wark remembers telling the doctor.

The truth was worse than he expected. Wark, who had struggled with shortness of breath for years, suffered from tuberculosis as a child, experienced asbestos exposure and smoked since his teens, had late stage emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

He didn’t know it at the time, but the diagnosis meant Wark was now a palliative care patient.

“Palliative medicine is designed for anyone who has a serious illness,” says Dr. Maloney. She lists cancer, dementia, heart failure, COPD, liver disease, renal failure, stroke, cystic fibrosis, congenital malformations and extreme prematurity as examples. “It’s any illness that has the potential to shorten your life.”

For those patients, palliative medicine focuses on providing relief from symptoms, pain and

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

the stress associated with having a serious illness. It involves listening to patients so their treatment is aligned with what is important to them. It works to enhance the patient’s, as well as their family’s or caregiver’s, quality of life through symptom management. And it includes an interdisciplinary team of caregivers helping to care for the patient’s diverse needs, not just treating his or her disease.

Palliative care is often confused with hospice care.

Hospice medicine is subset of palliative medicine, but is for patients nearing the end of life. Medicare defines hospice care as for a patient who two doctors have determined has six months or less to live and who understands that care going forward will be palliative, not curative, Dr. Maloney explains. Most private insurers have similar definitions, although sometimes allow patients to pursue both symptom management and life prolonging treatments.

Palliative care is offered early and throughout an illness. It doesn’t mean foregoing curative treatments. And it doesn’t mean giving up your primary care provider to meet with a palliative care physician like Dr. Maloney.

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Instead it is an extra layer of care, where a doctor spends time with patients to determine their wishes, help them understand their options and navigate the health care system, and answer their questions so they have better control over their disease and their care.

Long-time internal medicine physician Dr. Milt Fowler has referred patients to Dr. Maloney and Gifford’s other palliative care physicians. “My referrals to Dr. Maloney are to have her join forces with me in caring for patients with serious illnesses that would be helped by a team approach,” Dr. Fowler said.

“The palliative care specialty is young, but very useful. Patients who I have referred have felt our team approach has offered them more options and more availability. We have used this team approach both in office consults as well as with a number of home visits, which we often make together,” he said.

Research also backs what Gifford physicians have found anecdotally to be true.
“Many, many guidelines say this is the way to go. If you get patients onboard sooner, they do better,” Dr. Maloney says, citing studies from Massachusetts General Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center that found cancer patients undergoing palliative care had a better quality of life and improved mood, and, in the case of the Mass General study of metastatic lung cancer patients, slightly longer lives with less aggressive care.

This type of care also often produces less confusion and conflict with family or friends about a patient’s treatment goals, says Dr. Maloney.

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Over a longer appointment than the average doctor’s visit or over several appointments if the patient isn’t yet ready to discuss certain topics, Dr. Maloney determines a patient’s wishes by asking questions – without judgment – about treatment wishes; their home and financial resources, including family support and worries or concerns about their illness; their spiritual beliefs; if they want to know more about their prognosis; and their wishes should they be unable to speak for themselves.

“No one asks people what they want. They make the assumption they want the most care possible, which may not be the best care possible,” says Dr. Maloney, who often hears “I want to be home,” “I don’t want to travel to get treatment,” “I want to play with my grandkids” or even “I want to putter in my woodshed.”

Based on a patient’s wishes, Dr. Maloney then provides help achieving the patient’s goals to the best extent possible. That help might include referrals to a massage or music therapist, a visit with a chaplain or social worker, or help completing an Advance Directive and expressing wishes to family.

Gifford's palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

Gifford’s palliative care physician Dr. Cristine Maloney with a palliative care patient

In Wark’s case, Dr. Maloney prescribed breathing medications and recommended both that he quit smoking and participate in the medical center’s pulmonary rehabilitation program. He’s chosen not to pursue pulmonary rehabilitation yet, but has cut back on his smoking and says the medications have greatly improved his life.

“It’s a lifesaver. I can walk up my hill now,” says Wark, who is staying active with yard work and walking his Siberian husky dogs.

He knows “there’s going to come a time eventually that I’ll have to have oxygen.”

He’s OK with that. But he has also discussed that he doesn’t want the kind of aggressive care his own mother, for example, received for cancer. “I’d rather live a shorter life, but be more comfortable than receive very aggressive medications. I don’t like it. I don’t want it,” says Wark, who has signed a “do not resuscitate” order, which he’s shared with his ex-wife and keeps on his fridge.

And he remains upbeat about this illness.

“I’m not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself,” says Wark, who should have years to live. “It’s not a death sentence. You just have to deal with it and let the doctor help you.”

In addition to Dr. Maloney, Gifford’s palliative care physicians who can help are Drs. David Pattison, an internal medicine provider and pediatrician, and Jonna Goulding, a family physician. All three palliative care physicians serve on Gifford’s multidisciplinary Advanced Illness Care Team, which aims to promote and provide patient-focused palliative and hospice care both in the outpatient and inpatient settings.

SAVE THE DATE – The 2012 Last Mile Ride

2012 Last Mile RideThe 7th annual Last Mile Ride will be held on August 18, 2012, at Gifford Medical Center in beautiful Randolph, Vt.

Staging begins at 8:30 a.m. and motorcyclists depart at 10 a.m. for a 100-mile ride through some of Vermont’s most beautiful countryside. The guided ride includes some spectacular landscape and a mid-way break for riders to stretch their legs. The ride ends at Gifford Medical Center, where it will have begun, with a barbecue lunch, live music and prize giveaways.

The cost is $50 for one rider and $75 for two riders (on one bike). Riders need not pay the money themselves. They can fundraise the fee by asking friends and family for donations.

For their effort, riders get free commemorative pins, T-shirts if they register early, an escorted ride, a very fun day and the opportunity to support an outstanding cause. The ride raises money for services for terminally ill patients at Gifford, or those in the last mile of life. Visit www.giffordmed.org for more information.

Gifford Offering Free Help with Advance Directives

Advanced DirectivesRANDOLPH – Gifford Medical Center in Randolph will provide free assistance completing Advance Directives on Tuesday, April 17 from 2:30-5:30 p.m. in the hospital’s Conference Center.

A special talk by Gifford Director of Quality Management Sue Peterson will also take place from 4-4:30 p.m. on the importance of having an Advance Directive for making your end-of-life wishes known, new statewide initiatives and to answer any questions people may have.

An Advance Directive is a legal document in which you specify your health care wishes should you become unable to speak for yourself. These directives can then be shared with appropriate family members, your hospital or health care provider and with the Vermont Advance Directives Registry to help ensure your wishes are known and followed.

“You want to ensure that your decisions about life support are carried out if you’re unable to make health care decisions or can’t speak for yourself,” Peterson said. “We also want to encourage people to make sure their directives are part of the registry.”

Gifford’s annual event falls around National Healthcare Decisions Day, which aims to increase the number of people who understand the importance of end-of-life planning, talking with their loved ones about their wishes and completing Advance Directives.

Volunteers will be available at Gifford on April 17 to help people complete their Advance Directives. The hospital is also providing Advance Directive booklets for free. The cost of these booklets is being funded by Gifford’s Last Mile Ride, which raises money for end-of-life care – or, in this case, important end-of-life care planning. This year’s ride is Aug. 18.

Gifford will additionally scan participants’ Advance Directives into their patient records, provide participants copies of their directives to share with family members and mail completed directives to the Vermont registry for anyone who is interested.

No appointments are necessary. Filling out the Advance Directive form can take anywhere from minutes – say if all you want to do is designate a health care agent, or proxy, to make decisions for you – or up to an hour to thoroughly review the form and share your complete wishes. Topics on the form include appointing an agent, treatment wishes, organ and tissue donation, and funeral arrangements.

Advance Directives can be changed as your wishes change. Anyone with a changed or newly completed Advance Directive can bring those to one of the patient registration desks just inside the main entrance of the hospital to have your Advance Directive electronically scanned and saved in your Gifford patient record.

The hospital’s Conference Center is located just off from the patient parking area and marked with a green awning. For handicap access, use the main entrance, take the elevator down to the first floor and follow signs to the Conference Center. For more information, including directions, call the hospital at (802) 728-7000 or log on to www.giffordmed.org.