End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Posts TaggedWisconsin

Making decisions for loved one’s final days

By Warren Wolfe
Star Tribune
July 19, 2012

Sue Schettle has spent the past three years coordinating an ambitious campaign to help Minnesotans make better end-of-life medical choices. As CEO of the Twin Cities Medical Society, she’s seen how often big decisions go wrong at difficult moments.

Then she found out that her sister, who almost died from complications of emphysema 18 months ago, had made a big decision of her own: She had designated Schettle to be her “health care agent” to decide on proper care in case she is unable to speak for herself.

“This is very different from talking with other people about the benefits of planning for the end of life,” said Schettle, 47, as she visited her sister, Pam Lyons. “This is real, and it’s personal.” More

End-of-Life Care: A Portrait

by Paula Spahn
July 5, 2011
The New Old Age

Coming soon to a public television station near you: “Consider the Conversation: A Documentary on a Taboo Subject.”

Two friends and amateur filmmakers in rural southern Wisconsin put together this hourlong look at the way Americans think about, or try not to think about, what we’ve euphemistically come to call end-of-life questions.

Michael Bernhagen became a hospice worker after his mother died at age 81 of advanced vascular dementia without any health care professional ever mentioning the word “hospice” to his family. He conducted the film’s 40-odd interviews with chaplains and ministers, doctors, nurses, authors, researchers, patients and passers-by on New York City streets. Terry Kaldhusdal, a fourth-grade teacher whose brother died of pancreatic cancer at 53, was the guy behind the camera.

“Without our personal losses, this project probably wouldn’t have happened,” Mr. Bernhagen told me in an interview.

They spent a solid unpaid year — nights, weekends, holidays — shooting on a shoestring budget of $43,000. About 60 people made small contributions because they believed in the project or saw it as a way to memorialize loved ones; a handful of larger donors wrote checks for a few thousand dollars.

Accordingly, the film relies frequently on stock photos (soaring hawks, flickering candles) and soaring soprano voices. “We didn’t want to scare people. We wanted to inspire them to think, to talk and to act,” Mr. Bernhagen said. But while it may not be high art, “Consider the Conversation” provides moving narratives and important perspectives.

And its two producers, who initially had no idea how to place their work on public television but knew they wanted it to be viewable at no cost, can chalk up some successes. Their labor of love aired on West Virginia public television stations on July 2; it will run on New Hampshire Public Television on July 7 and 8. By August, it will have been shown on public television stations in central Michigan, Colorado, Indiana and New Mexico, and in Chicago and San Francisco.

For an updated screening schedule and more information, go to the filmmakers’ Web site, ConsidertheConversation.org.