At the Quality Institute, we’re changing the culture around end-of-life care. In libraries and senior centers, town halls and houses of worship, parks and colleges, we’re bringing people together for education — and for thoughtful conversations that provide clarity to loved ones.
We started Conversation of Your Life (COYL) in 2014 with three mayors and today we’re in over 11 counties. I’ve attended many COYL events and I am invariably impressed by the earnest questions of those who attend and the generous and compassionate spirit of our volunteers.
People leave with greater understanding of how to select a health care proxy, and what documents are legally binding. They understand the differences among Living Wills, Advance Directives, and POLST (Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). COYL events help guide people in discussions with their families and healthcare providers, and make these often-difficult conversations easier.
I’m writing about COYL now because throughout April each of our COYL Task Forces will hold Advance Directive signing events — from Bergen County to Atlantic County. At each venue, we’ll have subject matter experts, such as nurses and social workers, answering questions and providing advance directive forms. The events fall around National Health Care Decisions Day on April 16. You can download a list of the events here.
I’m asking all of our members to attend one of their local events, and to invite their colleagues, family and friends. Sign your advance directive and then share your thoughts on the need for everyone to receive the health care they want — and only the care they want — in their final days. Consider sharing your “signing” on social media using these hash tags: #NHDD #ConversationOfYourLife #NJHCQI
Already scheduled for a signing event is New Jersey Health Commissioner Sheeref M. Elnahal, M.D., M.B.A. So far, we have five mayors confirmed for our signing events: Hammonton Mayor Steve DiDonato; Tenafly Mayor Peter Rustin; Mayor Robert Jackson of Montclair; Mayor Reed Guscoria of Trenton; and Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler of Highland Park. We’ll also have local leaders, hospitals CEOs, and many Quality Institute members participating.
Every member of the Quality Institute has a stake in improving end-of-life care in New Jersey. We started COYL as part of our Mayors Wellness Campaign with three courageous mayors, Tenafly Mayor Peter Rustin; Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert; and Gloucester Township Mayor David Mayer.
We realized that together we could change the culture in New Jersey and start talking openly about our wishes for end-of-life care. Culture change is hard. Yet despite the challenges surrounding the topic, people filled our educational events and steadily COYL grew. Now COYL is part of Goals of Care Coalition of New Jersey, a statewide group working on this issue.
Thanks to the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and our mighty volunteers, we are making a measurable difference in people’s lives by sharing critical information — and providing people with the tools to support conversations and to document their wishes. Join us in action. I look forward to seeing you at one or more signing events in April.