SOURCE: The Alliance

The Alliance

April 13, 2010 12:00 ET

The Santa Barbara Alliance for Living and Dying Well Is Launched Amidst Support of National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16

Collaborative Group of Local Organizations Encourages Conversations About End-of-Life Wishes

SANTA BARBARA, CA--(Marketwire - April 13, 2010) -  Timed with the April 16, 2010, Third Annual National Healthcare Decisions Day, a collaborative of Santa Barbara County organizations who are involved daily in end-of-life caregiving and related issues, today announced the formation of the Alliance for Living and Dying Well. The Alliance's overarching mission is to educate the local community about the importance of and to facilitate conversations about end-of-life and the things that might be important to each individual for their end-of-life care, and then to turn these conversations into Advance Care Directives.

The Alliance membership -- Archstone Foundation, Cottage Health System, Hospice of Santa Barbara, James S. Bower Foundation, Santa Barbara Foundation, Sarah House, St. Francis Foundation, and Visiting Nurses & Hospice Care -- believes that people should speak openly about the reality of death, and accept it and embrace it as inextricably connected to life. "These types of conversations, while painful, can personally result in deep meaning and growth, and they can improve one's ability to enjoy life," said Susan Plummer, MSW, Ph.D., director of the Alliance for Living and Dying Well. "Having this conversation can be a gift to family members who will know what you want at a time when you may not be able to speak for yourself."

The culmination of a conversation between family members, friends and loved ones about end-of-life wishes is an Advanced Care Directive, a written document that insures that expressed wishes will be honored, such as: "Where do I wish to die?" "Who do I want to be with?" "Under what circumstances do I wish to have life support, to be resuscitated?" "Who do I want to express my wishes if I am not able?" Currently the number of patients arriving at facilities within the Cottage Hospital System with Advance Care Directives averages six percent. The Alliance for Living and Dying Well would like to increase this to 10 percent by January 2011.

"As a result of grassroots efforts like the Alliance for Living and Dying Well and national initiatives like National Healthcare Decisions Day, many more people in the Santa Barbara area community can be expected to have thoughtful conversations about their healthcare decisions and complete reliable advance directives to make their wishes known," said Nathan Kottkamp, chairman, National Healthcare Decisions Day Initiative. "Fewer families and healthcare providers will have to struggle with making difficult healthcare decisions in the absence of guidance from the patient, and healthcare providers and facilities will be better equipped to address advance healthcare planning issues before a crisis and be better able to honor patient wishes when the time comes to do so."

The Alliance conducts and supports a variety of programs and events that help facilitate people connecting with friends and loved ones in conversations about the relationship between life and death, and how to express their wishes about end-of-life care. One of the key activities already being implemented by the Alliance are Five Wishes Family and Friends Events in conjunction with area faith-based organizations and retirement homes. After a recent Family and Friends night led by Plummer at Congregation B'nai B'rith, Rabbi Steve Cohen said, "I have received many positive comments from my congregation about the discussion held that night, and on a personal note, it really helped me to have a conversation with my own parents when I saw them the next day."

Other programs being implemented with and by the Alliance include: a local Circles of Trust® program, which is a national retreat program based on the work of Dr. Parker Palmer; opportunities for people to see and to share their end-of-life stories as a way to reduce the sense of isolation by using videos posted online, shown on local Channel 17, and through the Alliance Web site www.allianceforlivinganddyingwell.org; and co-sponsoring a variety of conferences and community educational events.

For more information about the Alliance for Living and Dying Well or to find out about the Alliance's activities, including family and friends nights at local faith-based organizations, and community conferences and workshops, log on to www.allianceforlivinganddyingwell.org.

For more information about National Healthcare Decision Day, please visit www.nationalhealthcaredecisionsday.org.

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