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Advance Care Planning: The Time is Now


Jackie Dinterman was a social worker on the FMH Intensive Care Unit for more than 10 years. During that time, she watched many families grapple with heart-wrenching decisions regarding the care and treatment of loved ones who could no longer speak for themselves. Faced with their loved one’s progression of a chronic illness, complications resulting from surgery, or an acute event such as a stroke, families were exhausted, stressed, and confused. They often disagreed with one another about “what mom would want,” sometimes doing what Dinterman could only assume was irreparable damage to their relationships with one another.

Helping families avoid this stressful situation is one of the reasons that Dinterman is passionate about Frederick Memorial Hospital’s Advance Care Planning initiative.

“Advance Care Planning (ACP) is the process of reflecting on, discussing, and planning for a time when a person can no longer make his or her own medical decisions,” she explains. “The ACP initiative is based on partnerships both inside and outside the hospital designed to raise awareness, provide education and inspire people of all ages and stages of wellness to plan for these types of issues before there’s a crisis, when they can think and express themselves more clearly.”

One of the key components of the Advance Care Planning initiative is The Conversation Project, a national campaign designed to encourage people to talk with one another about how they want to live during the last phase of their lives. To support and encourage as many people as possible to have “the conversation,” FMH is working closely with a wide variety of community-based organizations to spread the word, including primary care practices, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Lay health educators affiliated with the FMH Bridges program

are working within Frederick’s faith-based communities, and members of the Advance Care Planning committee are holding workshops and discussions for the community at large to stress the importance of the topic. In addition, the hospital has created a Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) to keep the patients and their families at the center of this initiative.

“Remember, Advance Care Planning is not an end-of-life plan,” says PFAC member Nikki Moberly. “We call it a ‘plan for living,’ because it’s about making sure that people live out their last days according to their wishes. And one conversation can make all the difference.”

When it comes to end-of-life care, one conversation can make all the difference.

For more ideas about how to get started, or to download a starter kit,