Print this post.

Posted on 4/13/2019

Contact: Kathy Kuzma


Encouraging Individuals to have "Conversation of Your Life" with Loved Ones


The 15th isn’t the only important date in April…

Governor Murphy proclaimed April 16th as Healthcare Decisions Day in New Jersey. Honoring National Healthcare Decisions Day, events are being planned throughout the state during April focused on engaging communities in fruitful dialogue - The Conversation of Your Life (COYL) - to let individual's family, friends, and health care providers understand and respect their end-of-life wishes. Senior Source at Riverside Square Mall hosted the April 5th event "Important Things You Want Your Loved Ones to Know” which addressed the impact of doing or not doing advance care planning.

Marla Klein, Partnership Coordinator for the Bergen County Department of Health Services, opened the event describing available programs and efforts that are underway to improve the quality of life for seniors in Bergen County, including the Mayors Wellness Campaign and its COYL program, local hospital balance, exercise and nutrition programs as well as the many other health education programs scheduled at local places like Senior Source.

Lisa Blume and Tracey Arnauer at Senior Source,
photo courtesy of Eddie Weiner

Lisa Blume, a Holy Name Medical Center hospice RN and Tracey Arnauer, Villa Marie Claire Hospice Social Worker, presented information and clarified the differences among Living Wills, Advance Directives, and POLST (Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). Lisa’s presentation focused on New Jersey laws including that you do not need a lawyer to complete an advance directive and that there are two parts to the Advance Directive—the Living Will (Instruction Directive) and the Power of Attorney (Proxy Directive). She also emphasized that the form can be updated and/or cancelled at any time and that copies of older versions should be marked. Tracey answered questions about when POLST is important. Recurring statements from presenters emphasized including healthcare providers in your healthcare wishes as well as carefully choosing a healthcare agent who will honor your wishes.

Naomi McDermott, Jewish Home of Rockleigh Director of Social Services, and Leslie Greenberg, Senior Source Director of Communications and Outreach, shared their personal, family and professional experiences that highlighted the importance of communicating your end-of-life care wishes ahead of time. Their real life stories of hardship and family stress that could have been avoided with proper prior planning included incidents involving importance of healthcare directives document being readily accessible for EMT's and making copies for family members and healthcare providers as well as one for packing when traveling. Naomi McDermott's most compelling message about completing your living will was to save your loved ones from having to make emotionally taxing decisions on your behalf when the time comes.

Hackensack Health Officer Susan McVeigh and Bob Goodman arrived with their healthcare directives document, Five Wishes, thoughtfully completed. They publicly signed and date their living wills in front of two adult witnesses who also signed and dated the document.

According to Kathy Kuzma, COYL Task Force member, promotion of the Five Wishes document by the COYL program is due to the overwhelming response it has received as the first "living will with a heart and soul." This healthcare advance directive is clear and easy to understand. It leads people to think about (1)how to choose the person they wish to make care decisions for them when they cannot, (2) what kind of medical treatment they want or don't want, (3) how comfortable they wish to be, (4) how they wish to be treated and, finally, (5) special things they wish their loved ones to know. It is available in 27 languages. Each attendee was gifted a copy of Five Wishes and was encouraged to have the conversations and to complete the document before April 16.

“I have been planning to sign my advance directives for almost 2 years," shared Bob Goodman after signing his Five Wishes. “My son is a Doctor and could not advise me because he himself was conflicted with what decisions were best for me in my very tenuous medical condition, so both of us just ignored the responsibility of completing the paperwork," he recounted. "After attending and listening to the wonderful and moving presentation that was given on Friday, April 5th at Senior Source by Kathy Kuzma and other COYL Task Force members, I realized the importance of completing these forms." Bob concluded, "I now understood all the implications and dangers of not having them completed and distributed to the proper doctors and family members. I was able to actually sign the documents in a comfortable and safe environment and it became very clear to me what my choices and decisions were. Thank you to Kathy Kuzma and her team who worked so hard to make this day happen for me."

Michele Silver, Senior Source Executive Director, closed the event thanking the Bergen COYL Task Force and Kathy Kuzma, President of North Jersey Villages for co-sponsoring this event to encourage local adults to plan ahead for future health care decisions and to document those wishes.

COYL Task Force members are experts and professionals who volunteer their time at these events to help guide people in adequately preparing their healthcare advance directives. COYL is a program of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute’s Mayors Wellness Campaign. Adrian Diogo, Director of Mayors Wellness Campaign was in attendance and available to answer questions.

For additional information, please go to If you would like to learn more about planning a local COYL event for older adults in your community, contact

- End -

Comments are closed