Beacon Hill Village Offers Help on Planning for Critical Medical Care

By Betsy Peterson

The choices of medical treatment–and how far to pursue treatment–are confusing and hard enough when you are healthy. Palliative care or hospice (and what’s the difference?) Advance directive? MOLST? DNR? And if you are too sick to make the decision, who will decide, and what will they decide? Resuscitation? Intubation? Artificial feeding? Just “comfort care”? Will they know what you would choose on the spectrum from “alive at any cost” to “just keep me comfortable and let nature take its course”?

These issues can arise at any age, but are especially relevant if we develop a health problem, and as we get older or take care of aging family and friends. Beacon Hill Village invites the public to a program led by Joyce Gallagher, RN, BSN, MSEd, director of nursing at Good Shepherd Community Care, to be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29, at 64 Beacon Street (King’s Chapel Parish House). Call Beacon Hill Village at 617-723-9713 to register.

Gallagher will first review choices and documents that can direct others to carry out your wishes. She will also offer some suggestions for starting the conversation that many find difficult, and answer questions. You are encouraged to bring a person you would choose to act on your behalf for end-of-life decisions.

As Gallagher says, “As soon as you become an adult, you should identify someone who will make your health decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. This person and your loved ones should know what your wishes are if, at any point, you are incapacitated and can’t speak for yourself. These articulated wishes can and should be documented.”

Gallagher is currently director of nursing at Good Shepherd Community Care, the first hospice in Massachusetts. She has been a hospice nurse for over fourteen years and has been a nurse for many more with past specialties in operating rooms, holistic and mind body medicine and wellness and prevention. She is a graduate of Columbia University and a certified yoga teacher and Reiki Master.

Working in end of life care has inspired Gallagher to help create a heightened awareness of choices at the end of life and advanced directives. She has helped many who struggle with decisions for themselves and their families and for loved ones who have become unable to make their wishes known.

Beacon Hill Village offers this program as part of its series “Living Well/Ending Well”. Another program open to the public will focus on funeral options on Wednesday, April 19, from 2 to 4 p.m. at 64 Beacon St. A speaker from the Funeral Consumers Alliance will outline choices such embalming, cremation, or “green burial”, and the Rev. Joy Fallon, senior minister of King’s Chapel, will offer suggestions for planning a funeral or memorial service.

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