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National Healthcare Decisions Day Recognized at Berkeley College

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Posted on 4/12/2019


Contact: Kathy Kuzma


Encouraging Individuals to Plan for a Good Life and Death

Above: At signing of Five Wishes advance directive documents, left to right Adelisa Perez, Quality Director, New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, served as witness and Paramus Health Officer Judith Migliaccio and Ridgewood Health Officer Dawn Cetrulo signed their documents while Bergen County COYL Task Force member Kathy Kuzma read excerpts from document for attendees.

In recognition of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's Proclamation declaring April 16, 2019 Healthcare Decision's Day, COYL (Conversation of Your Life) signing events are being planned throughout the state during April. Berkeley College Paramus hosted the April 4th kick-off event "Just Do It: Planning for a Good Life and Death" to inform and encourage individuals to think about, discuss, confirm their wishes in writing, and share this important information about their healthcare decisions with their families and healthcare providers.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi opened the event describing a personal experience that highlighted the importance of planning ahead for future health care decisions and documenting those wishes before it is too late. Later in the program, Social Worker Sue Breithaupt shared additional stories of hardship and family stress that could have been avoided with proper prior planning. Recurring statements from presenters emphasized including healthcare providers in your healthcare wishes as well as designating a healthcare agent who will honor your wishes.

Since there can be a myriad of situations that arise when it comes to completing a healthcare directive, speaker Shana Siegel, Esq., CELA (certified elder law attorney), recommends focusing on functionality. "Ask yourself questions like: What happens if I cannot get out of bed? What if I can no longer recognize people? What if I cannot speak or swallow? Write down and discuss what is important to you in these circumstances."

Ridgewood Mayor Ramon Hache and Health Officer Dawn Cetrulo and Paramus Health Officer Judy Migliaccio arrived with Five Wishes (their healthcare directive document) thoughtfully completed and prepared to have their public signing witnessed by attendees.

"Reading and filling out the Five Wishes document has made me think about not only myself, but what I need to do to get my family members prepared... This program was enlightening... I will definitely start the discussion with others about how important these conversations are," shared Dawn Cetrulo after signing her Five Wishes.

Judy Migliaccio noted that "While it can be difficult to initiate these conversations, they can be an invaluable gift to those you love and those providing medical care if you are facing a medical crisis. Hearing such heartfelt stories at this first program of the NJHQI's Mayors Wellness Campaign series... helps to inspire and educate people about the value of advance care planning... and important steps to make wishes known."

Above: Community leaders participating in event to promote National Healthcare Decisions Day, are (left to right) Ridgewood Mayor Ramon Hache, New Jersey Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi; Timothy D. Luing, Executive Vice President, Berkeley College; Shana Siegel, Esq., Norris McLaughlin, PA; Kathy Kuzma, President, North Jersey Villages, Inc.; and Shari Haber, Consultant, Great Goodbyes.

According to Kathy Kuzma, President, North Jersey Villages, 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.

Shari Haber, a consultant with Great Goodbyes, helps families and individuals with personalized death preparations that can be included in Wish 5. "The best time to think about death is when you are not dying, like now," Ms. Haber said. "This empowers you and spares your family's stress and expense." In this regard, she noted that items once only offered by the funeral home or cemetery are available at lower cost on Amazon or Walmart. "You can be very specific," she continued. "Some individuals indicate in detail what kind of room, what music, even the script, so funeral or memorial services are personalized." She also talked about the growing number of environmentally conscious individuals who include green cremations and burials in their wishes. She suggested reviewing and mending relationships so you do not have regrets in your final days. "Death can be a great inspiration for life; live your life with greater intention and gratitude," she concluded.

North Jersey Villages and the Bergen County COYL Task Force co-sponsored this event. COYL (Conversations of Your Life) is a program of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute's Mayors Wellness Campaign.

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