As I was eating dinner at the restaurant in the hotel today in Minneapolis, a gentleman from Oklahoma and his wife were being seated at the next table. He said how much he enjoyed my morning keynote address at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's 2nd National Conference on Access to Hospice and Palliative Care. After he sat down he turned around and looked at me and said, “Let me be accurate. I didn’t enjoy it but I felt challenged. You stepped on my toes. Thank you.”
I put my fork down and asked him how I could help. He wanted to know what was the best way to reach people who were not like him. What could he do? I reminded him that his greatest strength in reaching out to others was his deep sense of humanity and that reaching out to different communities is difficult because there is no cookie cutter. Although people may want to sell a single method to reach any group the fact is that there is no magic way to reach every person with a message about hospice.
Later in the day I spoke to another person who was pleased that they now had brochures about hospice in 20 languages. I couldn’t help but grin at their belief that somehow a brochure was going to be the bridge for discussions of life and death. Years of work on all sorts of health topics documents that brochures even when properly translated will not accomplish what needs to happen. Brochures are a tool; in and of themselves they accomplish nothing.
What do we need? We need conversation. End of life issues are difficult and the conversations difficult. We need trained and trusted advocates that can help us decide what our wishes are, have the conversation with those we love, and write it all down. It’s a loving step that gives us decision making authority and gives the comfort of clear directives to those we love in the most difficult of times. But it’s a step that requires more than a brochure, it requires one-to-one support. Making clear one’s preferences and planning for our own end of life care is a way to celebrate the full cycle of life.
You can call us at the National Alliance for Hispanic Health for support and speak to a trained health advocate in Spanish or English at 1-866-783-2645.