The Being Mortal Project (Part II)

The Being Mortal Project
(Part II)

By Louise Joyce
(This is the second in a three-part series.)

The Conversation Grows

From our first event on June 10th we watched the power of word of mouth raise the conversation to new heights. Our second event on Aug 23rd at University Retirement Community in Davis was maxed to capacity three weeks after our June 10th event.

We rushed to land a third event. Davis Community Church was in the process of creating a “Graceful Dying Adult Formation Series,” starting at the end of September. The series included guided conversations entitled: Graceful Dying Intro, The Five Wishes Document, Writing Your Own DCC Memorial and Tips on Writing Your Obituary, End of Life Option Act.  It would end on Friday, October 28th with the End of Series Community Event: Being Mortal. With a capacity of 200, it would be our biggest event to date.   

Stephanie Koop, a volunteer for Citizens Who Care, called asking how we could bring it to the medical professionals and clinicians of the Vacaville Prison, of which her husband, Dr. Joseph Bick, was the Chief Medical Officer. Being Mortal was scheduled to hit the road for Vacaville on Aug 11th for the California Medical Facility. Of all of our events to date, this event was the most profound. To catch a glimpse into the daily lives of the inmates, to deliver Being Mortal into the hearts of medical professionals and clinicians who serve this audience, left us different, softer in a way that words fail to capture. I remember seeing the blue of sky afterward and thinking, it had never been so blue.

As a member of the Yolo Healthy Aging Alliance, whose purpose is to promote the well-being of older adults through Education, Collaboration and Advocacy, we offered up a Being Mortal presentation to its members. Sheila Allen, Executive Director of Yolo Healthy Aging Alliance, understood our urgency, and Being Mortal was scheduled for the morning of June 27th. Twenty members of the Alliance, the frontline resource for our most vulnerable populations of Yolo County, received the conversation.

We brought the conversation to more and more places.  The professionals of the Senior Housing and Resources Exchange of Solano County consist of representatives of home care, home health, hospice providers, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing facilities. Hosted at Paradise Valley Estates in Fairfield, twenty professionals were so deeply moved by the conversation that the absence of tissues was a real issue, and the driving force for adding them to our Event Check List. Hearts were being blown wide open in receipt of the conversation.

Ice-Breakers, a collaboration of Dignity Healthcare and Yolo Hospice, whose focus is to eliminate loneliness for seniors, scheduled a Being Mortal presentation at Yolo Hospice on August 26th. By then it was clear that the plateau we had been waiting for in the conversation was nowhere in sight for 2016. Thirty family members from all different ages joined us in our Suite C for the presentation and discussion. They left as everybody does, with their hearts a little closer to the conversation.

The Being Mortal presentation at the Davis Senior Center on Sept 16th introduced the work of our Being Mortal Ambassador, Alison Kent of Listen Ink. The conversation was captured using graphic recording. Graphic recording is a dynamic and participatory process that captures discussions in real time, usually on large sheets of paper, using a combination of images and words. Everyone present can immediately see how their contribution fits into the whole picture. When Alison approached us about working with us on the Being Mortal Project, it was the signal that beyond our medical professionals and clinicians, there were other professionals with talents and passion for easing suffering at end-of-life that wanted and needed to come to the table. We welcomed her, and her work, gratefully.

The pile of participant questionnaires from the Hospice Foundation of America, the tool that gathers the data of conversation, was mounting up.  We needed a passionate soul for the work to become our master data keeper, to crunch the data into a format we could present at our Being Mortal ½ Yearly Report of Yolo County. Theresa Daniels of Winters came to us through the friendship of Janene Ramos, Executive Assistant to Craig, with a love and an eye for numbers, data and Excel. We claimed her immediately as a Being Mortal ambassador.


(The project and conversation will continue in our next issue)

Louise Joyce is the Community Liaison for Yolo Hospice, providing education, resources and support to community partners, as we care for our hospice patients wherever they call home. She has extensive experience working with seniors and veterans which she obtained from her time at Brookdale Senior Living in Vacaville, formerly known as Merrill Gardens and as the Marketing Director for The Californian and Acacia Glen Senior Apartments in Woodland. She recently celebrated five years with Yolo Hospice.