I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Being a volunteer facilitator

Espresso and iPad art
I always like to start out my posts with a picture of some sort. This one I took last week because I was so impressed with the design in the latte and saw this scene just before I turned on my iPad. My usual companions at the coffee shop had not yet arrived. Once I began to drink and surf the internet, the moment passed, but it's preserved here forever.

When I wrote in here last Sunday I was still processing the previous day's training. I'll start at the beginning of why I decided to become an end-of-life Advance Care Planning (ACP) facilitator. Last summer SG (Smart Guy) and I went to a presentation about the importance of ACP. Although we had prepared our wills with an attorney a decade before, this was different and much more comprehensive. After being given the Washington state version of ACP, we went home and filled out the sections of the 7-page-long document that were easy to process. Then we scheduled an hour-and-a-half session with an ACP facilitator.

Needless to say, I was very impressed with the process and what Karen, our facilitator, was able to do to help us decide how to complete the document. How it is different from a will is that you need to think about what you want to happen if for any reason you are not conscious and end up in the hospital. As their brochure says, "Speak for yourself today so that others will be able to speak for you tomorrow." This was not part of our previous will in any detail. You also need to think about what you want to happen if you are not likely to ever again know who you are or who you are with.

The Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement (WAHA) is unique in my experience, giving all residents of Whatcom County a chance to get this information filled out, notarized, and on file in the records at the local hospital (PeaceHealth). And all this is done by volunteers; the program is supported by donations. WAHA has a plan to get 65% of all people 65 and over to have their ACP done within the next few years, and training new facilitators is part of the process.

I told Karen that I was so impressed with the ability she had to help us figure out the best way to fill out these documents that I too would like to learn how to help. I had done a little volunteering in the community since retirement, but before this happened I had not found my place. Last spring I attended a two-day-long session on becoming a death doula, someone who helps others to pass through the last phase of life in a sacred way. After attending, however, I decided that it was not for me at this time. Too intense, I guess, and not quite what I was looking for.

This training was pretty intense, too, but it's a whole different thing. First of all, I was instructed to complete four on-line courses on "Respecting Choices" and to learn how to use value-neutral language and how to listen without inserting my own feelings and desires into the discussion. I was given a month or so to complete them, and I found this method of training to be very helpful and instructive. I was glad to finish them successfully, since it's been a long time since I'd done any kind of training like that.

And then last Saturday I spent the entire day going through the training with five other new facilitators, accompanied by four current facilitators and the instructor. Eleven of us women never left the room except to use the bathroom for nine hours! Snacks and lunch were provided (a good homemade lunch, too!). We reviewed what we had learned on line and then did five separate role-playing sessions. Nobody really likes these, but they are a good way to put the skills you have learned to use. We pretended to be the facilitator guiding the client through the discussions, and then we switched roles. I learned a great deal, and it was very valuable, not to mention allowing me to become part of a community of like-minded women.

I was mentally exhausted by the time I returned home, but I hadn't had a chance to get any exercise at all, so I figured I'd go for a walk or something. But it's amazing how draining such intense mental activity can be: instead I poured myself a glass of wine, collapsed in my chair, and shared the day's activities with SG. The next step is to twice shadow a facilitator as she meets with a client (sit quietly in the room and observe), and then start working with my own appointments. I've got two friends who I'll work with, one my friend John at the coffee shop and another hiking buddy.

I've shadowed once and have another scheduled for the 16th, and by that time I should have helped two people in the community get their ACP documents filled out. I'm not exactly sure how the last part is finished (getting the documents checked over and notarized) but I'll find out. I'm now getting the hang of this and I think I'll enjoy it very much. It's a very valuable service. I know that families have a really hard time deciding how to proceed when a loved one is incapacitated, and it takes all the guesswork out of the situation when the person's wishes are known, written down and on file.

Whew! Getting all this written out was rough. I didn't realize how much it would help me to get my mind around it all by writing this post, but it has allowed me to organize my thoughts. It's not exactly a fun activity such as hiking to the top of a mountain, but it is needed and I think will give me a sense of providing a useful service. Plus it's volunteer, so if I decide it's not for me, I can just stop. I don't think I will, though.

The one thing I am already noticing is how much less free time I seem to have. Between appointments with the training and my two yoga classes, my "dance card" has filled right up! Again I marvel at how I ever managed to fit a full-time job into my life, not to mention skydiving every weekend. But I'm older now, and I've slowed down to the brisk pace of ordinary mortals. (smile)

In a few weeks, it will be exactly one year since I made my last skydive. Have I missed it? I can actually say no, I haven't. It was time to stop, but not a week passes without skydiving showing up in my dreams. It was a huge part of my life for a long time, but becoming a retired skydiver is not that much different from becoming a retired writer/editor. The only real difference is that I still can write and edit for fun. Jumping from an airplane for fun requires a different skill set. My skydiving gear is still continuing to get a good workout from its new owner, Lauren. And thanks to Facebook, I can smile and wish her well.

Mercy! This ended up being a bit more work than usual, but it was very necessary to get it all out here. I am now noticing the days getting longer as we gain more than three minutes of daylight every day. Before too long I'll be hearing the birds outside as I write, but it's still almost an hour before the sun comes up. There's light in the sky already, though. How delightful! I wish that you, my dear reader, will have a wonderful week before we meet here again. Blessings and virtual hugs all around.


Anonymous said...

I didn't realize that you had to be trained so thoroughly. I have an advance directive, which was drafted by an attorney, and I signed it and had it notarized. Same for hubby. I hope there are no problems when I am incompetent in the hospital.

Marie Smith said...

I imagine that writing about the process solidified it in your mind. It's benn quite a journey for you. Not everyone could do this work, so to have found something which you enjoy and which is so helpful to others, is wonderful.

Have a great week.

Rian said...

DJan, I really like the idea of Advanced Care Planning... although not sure about being an end-of-life Advance Care Planning (ACP) facilitator. Is this available in all the states? Is it accepted by all hospitals? I know that they ask here when you are admitted for a procedure if you have some form of advance directive. We have one that was done by our attorney when we did our will, but I know it's not very specific.

Linda Myers said...

Facilitation/mediation is very tiring. Glad you decided to do it!

Linda Reeder said...

This sounds like a good fit for you, DJan. And with Bellingham being the retirement capitol of the northern USA ;-), you will have plenty of opportunity to practice your new skill set.
We have advanced directives done at the time we updated our will. They are also on file with out medical provider, Group Health. I have no idea if these forms are as detailed as you are working with. I do remember tom and I consulting with each other in filling them out.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am certain you will be a great helper. I sat in with a Nursing Home Director when she went through it with my parents. As you know ours are done and witnessed, my brother and sister inlaw witnessed ours and they don't have to be notarized in the State of MN, I think it is wonderful that my children can talk with my brother if they have questions about what we intended besides having it all written out. I have the original copies here at home and copies are at our Clinic with our Doctor.
I am sure that rules vary from State to State...sometimes I think a medic alert type bracelet would be better. :)

Arkansas Patti said...

"how to listen without inserting my own feelings and desires into the discussion ". That I think would be hard but very valuable and wouldn't hurt to be a part of everyday daily conversations. I might work on that. This sounds like a wonderful program and with our aging society, a very needed one. Think I need to do some planning. Thanks.
Keep up your busy schedule--it can only serve you well.

Elephant's Child said...

How I wish it was available here. It sort of is, but not in a comprehensive, all in one place way. And how I wish my partner would make a will.
Yay you.
And the listening without inserting our own judgements was a big part of my training before I went on the crisis line. Valuable. And not as easy as it sounds.

Tabor said...

I also am looking for something a bit more meaningful in my retirement even though I do my volunteer for a few groups. Hopefully something will touch me at this project has touched you. I find if something is a lot of work, takes up a lot of time and you still like it, then it is the meaningful activity you have been looking for. I look forward to some anecdotes as you traverse this project because we are all going to be there someday.

Mersad said...

That was a really extensive report on the whole process. I wish you lots of luck in the care providing field.

Mersad Donko Photography

Red said...

Something like ACP is certainly valuable for people. People need a little help to get things right. For you, it's about personal growth from something that is well worth while . By now the weekend is almost over. I hope you had a good one.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

This is great work you're doing. I this society, discussions of death and options before you die are a taboo. It figures a Sadge would tackle this as you have.

Rita said...

I think you will be great at this. Nice that you get to start out with a couple people you know so you won't be as nervous. This is something we all should do. I think I filled out something for the hospital/clinic a few years ago. But it wasn't notarized or anything. I do have something in writing, though, I believe. I should double-check.

What beautiful cups of coffee, BTW. :)

Barb said...

It's so interesting to hear about this volunteer work you'll do. Bob and I have our wills and power of attorney done and have filled out CO's advanced care directive. However, I keep thinking I should put more of our wishes into writing for our family. I need to stop putting this off!

Sally Wessely said...

You are a perfect fit for this type of volunteer work. It does sound very intense in the training aspect of it all, but it should be because this is serious business that you will be doing. Like Barb, Jim and I also have our wills, power of attorney, and advanced care directives in place. We reviewed them when Jim had his back surgery - both before the surgery and after. We discussed if we thought everything was in place the way we would want it. Jim is happy with what we have. I think I would like to put things together in a more written type form such as you are doing so that the instructions are more clear.

amanda said...

Wonderful to learn about what YOU are learning about, this sounds like fascinating training and very meaningful, helpful work.
I love the process of sorting/organizing my thoughts by writing. Ok, actually I might not love the process as much as I love the result. It's much easier to read someone else's organizing than doing the organizing myself. ;) (A lot of mental work sometimes!) But the really feels great. That coffee looks great, too. So pretty!

amanda said...

Wonderful to learn about what YOU are learning about, this sounds like fascinating training and very meaningful, helpful work.
I love the process of sorting/organizing my thoughts by writing. Ok, actually I might not love the process as much as I love the result. It's much easier to read someone else's organizing than doing the organizing myself. ;) (A lot of mental work sometimes!) But the really feels great. That coffee looks great, too. So pretty!

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I have a lot of admiration for those of you who are able to put together such fine posts on a regular schedule. Since my start in the blogosphere about 6 years ago I have found that my blogging activity varies quite a bit … from almost daily posts for a while to very infrequent … maybe one or two posts a month. Right now I’m in one of those “slow periods” and a downside to that is missing out on a few of the blogs I follow that have something fresh in almost every post. I’m not happy when a week goes by and I don’t have a chance to see what the latest is from Eye on the Edge. :-) Having said all that, I appreciated a lot of what you said in this post, and especially about getting the ACP Documentation completed. I am going to get to work on it for myself and spouse. Thanks, as always!