Together with Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, VNA/EMHS Home Health and Hospice, Thriving in Place Partners, the Blue Hill Public Library, and an amazing group of community volunteers, Choices That Matter Community Conversation got underway in early 201. It is aimed at encouraging people in all our communities to consider and implement end-of-life planning and discuss their wishes with their family and healthcare providers. Support for this project came from a generous grant from the Maine Community Foundation.

Why write an advance directive? There's a beautiful quote from Dr. Ira Byock, a leader in end-of-life care: "I have an Advance Directive not because I have a serious illness but because I have a family." If you became incapacitated, would your family know your wishes for care?

It all started when a community volunteer brought to our attention a program that has been running in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, through which 97% of the adults in that community have advance directives. Wow! A steering committee came together to study the technique used in that community and resources from organizations like The Conversation Project. Three subcommittees have been studying things like a curriculum for training volunteer community facilitators, how to reach people in the community, and how to integrate work in the community with the hospitals and healthcare providers. And a well-attended community breakfast in April 2017 generated plenty of comments and enthusiastic interest in the community.

The first offerings of Choices That Matter in partnership with Hospice Volunteers of Hancock County, were showings of the movie "Being Mortal," a PBS Frontline documentary with Dr. Atul Gawande based on his book of the same title, followed by a panel discussion. (You and your family can also watch "Being Mortal" on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5ckON3HxRc). Then Two community members who are passionate about the subject put together a two-part workshop called Choices That Matter: Optimizing Healthcare Decisions for Difficult Times that has been offered in several communities throughout the year.

In the summer of 2017, interested volunteers stepped up to be trained as Choices That Matter Facilitators and are now available to sit down one on one and help families begin the conversation. They can also offer assistance in filling out forms and are happy to answer questions. Another training series for facilitators is in the works.

We may not be at 97% yet, but we're getting closer every day!